Union's players after the bankruptcy with the fans
Photo: IMAGO/Matthias Koch
Sound of silence: Union Berlin and Sporting Braga fought a thrilling Champions League duel. The Köpenicker quickly led 2-0, Braga came back, then even managed to equalize. In the end, Union pressed for victory and 73,345 spectators in Berlin's Olympic Stadium made noise to the best of their ability. Then, in the fourth minute of injury time, the ball came to Braga's André Castro, who scored with a perfect low shot in the bottom left corner. Suddenly, there was silence in the stadium.
The result: Union Berlin lost the first Champions League home game in its history 2:3 (2:1). As in the 0-1 defeat at Real Madrid, the decisive goal was conceded in injury time. Progression in the group with Real Madrid, Napoli and Sporting Braga will be – to put it mildly – difficult. Click here for the detailed report.
The Prevented Hero: Sheraldo Becker hasn't wanted to succeed at all this season so far. The striker has scored a measly goal so far, in the first round of the DFB-Pokal in a 4-0 win against Regionalliga side FC-Astoria Waldorf. Then came the 30th minute of Union's Champions League home debut. The biggest possible stage – and the captain knew how to play it. After a pass from Alex Král, he set off, kept his cool in front of goal and slotted in for Union's first goal in the Champions League. Seven minutes later, he made it 2-0. Union dominated the first half and Becker was on his way to becoming the hero of the evening.
Spoilsport: But Braga had something against it. The Portuguese, who played extremely risky, found their way into the game better after going 0-2 down, and Sikou Niakaté scored the second goal before half-time (41st minute). A blow to the neck that visibly shocked the Berliners.
Head down: Because the self-confidence of the Berliners was not particularly pronounced even before the game. Coach Urs Fischer's team had lost five competitive games in a row, most recently there was a dismal 0-1 defeat at newly promoted Heidenheim in the Bundesliga. Fischer said before the clash with Braga: "This is a game with a certain meaning". What was typical understatement: Union absolutely needed a sense of achievement again. In between, this pressure seemed to inhibit the players.
When suddenly everything succeeds: Braga also set the tone in the second half – and equalised when Bruma scored into the corner after a well-rehearsed corner kick (51st). There are phases in football when you don't succeed yourself – and the opponent does everything.
From Gelsenkirchen to Europe: Bundesliga relegated FC Schalke 04, which is reeling alarmingly in the second division, also wants to succeed little at the moment. Last season, Alex Král and Rodrigo Zalazar also wore the royal blue jersey. They could not prevent the fall into the second class, which is surprising. Both are now regulars at a Champions League participant, Král at Union and Zalazar at Braga.
Party atmosphere: The Union fans have a feel for their team. The game had been moved from the Alte Försterei to the Olympic Stadium in order to allow as many fans as possible to enjoy the Champions League experience (and, of course, to earn more money). In any case, the fans stood on their feet throughout, sang and built up their team. They know that even if there is a crisis right now, the fact that a team that was only promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019 is now playing in Europe's most important club competition is nothing less than a small football miracle.
Back to the roots: But Union fans wouldn't be Union fans if they didn't have a little message with them. They don't think much of a permanent move to the Olympic Stadium, where Hertha usually plays its home games. "WE NEED THE OLD FORESTER'S HOUSE LIKE THE AIR WE BREATHE," read an XXL banner.
Opportunities without fortune: In any case, the players apparently let themselves be carried away by the mood from the middle of the second half. Fischer brought in Kevin Volland, among others, and the offensive game, which had previously been limited to quick switching over the outside, was then a little more variable. Union created significantly more chances than recently. A goal was not scored for a long time. Before Braga struck at the last minute.
Here's what's next: Immediately after conceding the bitter goal, there was silence for a moment, then the fans gathered again, applauded and sang to the team. She also went to her followers. Robin Gosens shook his head again and again in bewilderment, other players discussed with each other. But the fans immediately signaled: We continue to stand behind you. After six bankruptcies in a row, this does not succeed in many clubs, but it is also sorely needed. The next opponents: German runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga runners-up VfB Stuttgart and Italian champions SSC Napoli. It doesn't get any easier.