In their first game of the Europa League group stage, Union Berlin’s disappointing last third place game gave Belgium’s Union Saint-Gilloise a 1-0 victory.
|Urs Fischer.||Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
In the electric and red An der Alten Försterei Stadium, Union Berlin kicked off their unprecedented Europa League run against Union Saint-Gilloise. The Belgian club last participated in a European campaign in 1964, making this a very meaningful affair for both fan bases.
It was a slow start to the game with both teams circling but failing to make their way through their respective defences. Striker Kevin Behrens, who came in for the injured Jordan, had Union’s best chance just after fifteen minutes, but was unable to find the goal.
Sint-Gillis defender Siebe Van der Heyden found the goal with his head later in half-time, but keeper Frederik Rønnow was not tested excessively. However, in a devastating counter-attack, Victor Boniface found Senne Lynen, who gave Saint-Gilloise the lead in the 39th minute.
The Belgian squad took this 1-0 lead into halftime against the stunned capital club who only had one shot on target. While Urs Fischer’s side had more possession in the other half, anything sent into the penalty area was immediately sent out by Saint-Gilloise’s well-organized defence.
Saint-Gilloise could have added another to start the second period, but Dante Vanzeir’s header narrowly went over the crossbar. Union started to control more and more of the ball, as they kept pushing to score the equalizer.
Union was by far the more progressive side, making their new home at the Saint-Gilloise end. But they just couldn’t find a way through. Time and again, the German club has pushed forward to create opportunities from both open play and set pieces. Still, they missed the finishing touch to seriously challenge Saint-Gilles keeper Anthony Moris.
Sven Michel had some decent late chances and Sheraldo Becker’s exploits weren’t enough. Saint-Gilloise sat deep, grabbed their defense and wasted time, only threatening on the occasional counter.
Michel even got a precious red card in the 96th minute for stepping on Teddy Teuma’s ankle. It is a frustrating result for the capital club that returns to the league game against Köln on Sunday. They will travel to the Portuguese Braga next Thursday to continue the Europa League match.