Union Berlin nudged aside city-rivals Hertha Berlin 1-0 in the first-ever Berlin Derby between these two sides in the Saturday evening Bundesliga game. After what was majorly a cagey game which saw some controversy when play had to be interrupted in the second half because of fan-backlash, the hosts got a very late winner with Sebastian Polter’s penalty to get Union three points safe from the relegation zone.
Story of the Game
The game began in thunderous fashion as Union nearly got the lead in the second minute when Marcus Ingvartsen’s inviting cross from the right found an overlapping Christopher Lenz’s header which struck the post and went out.
Three minutes later, Ingrvarsten tested Hertha heading a cross straight to goalkeeper Rune Jarstein. The visitors also got into the action in the 12th minute, when Javairo Dilrosun floated in an inviting cross for Dodi Lukabakio to head straight to Rafal Gikiewicz.
However, Hertha received an even better opportunity in the 35th minute when a cross was floated in from the right-wing and met with Marko Grujic’s powerful header which scraped just over to land on top of the net. Union piled men forward looking to give their rapturous supporters something joyful but were shut out before the break.
The fans were left highly displeased at what had transpired and five minutes after the second half kicked-off, a flare show from both sides of fans escalated to flares being thrown onto the pitch. The game was interrupted for a few minutes before it was adjourned safe to proceed again.
That seemed to rattle the players a bit and they amped up the intensity of the game, but both sides kept on cancelling each other out. Maximillian Mittelstaedt romped forward after the hour mark and sent in a menacing cross, forcing a strong stop from Gikiewicz.
Union midfielder Robert Andrich took a wild swipe at goal from more than 30 yards out which went wide in the 78th minute, to sum up the frustration. Just when it seemed like it would end a drab goalless encounter, the hosts charged forward and in the 86th minute, Christian Gentner was brought down by Hertha’s Dedryck Boyata inside the box after taking a shot which blazed over.
Substitute Sebastian Polter took the penalty with confidence and blasted it over in the 89th minute to give his side an infamous win in the first-ever Berlin derby between these two sides.
Takeaways from the Game
Union Berlin are here to stay
Union Berlin’s story in the Bundesliga is almost as extraordinary as their ascension to the league after almost going out of business on multiple occasions. So when it came to dealing with the derby, they put their heart and soul into defeating Hertha. They were defensively solid, keeping the visitors quiet and barely allowing them a sniff at goal after some early trouble.
Lady luck helped them get the penalty which led to the winner, but Urs Fischer’s side earned it with a spirited performance. They are a tough nut to crack at home with the incredible support from the fans and that promising home form can be decisive towards their stay in the league. With the other promoted sides struggling, Union look assured to continue their Bundesliga journey beyond this season.
Hertha were too cautious for their own good
Hertha Berlin never really looked that determined to get a winner in the game and as it progressed looked happy with playing out a goalless derby. Well, their nonchalant attitude cost them big time with an embarrassing loss to their “smaller” rivals. Ante Covic took a very cautious approach, being more intent on quieting Union than going with a positive, attacking approach to excite his fans.
His side barely created chances, was too predictable with their attacks and played right into the hosts’ hands. This is probably a stark reality check for Covic’s side, which must realize their biggest asset is their attacking prowess thanks to the talented individuals they had. Well, they seemed to lack that fire in the derby and missed a chance to close in onto the top-six.
Neven Subotic rolled back the years with his sturdy defensive work, clearing every aerial battle he got the chance to delve into and making some crucial challenges. His defensive partner-in-crime Keven Schlotterbeck kept the much-experienced Vedad Ibisevic quiet with his diligent marking while making important tackles and interceptions to keep his rivals quiet.
Niklas Stark proved his high potential with a pretty sturdy performance in which he made a number of noticeable challenges to bring calmness to his side. But 34-year-old Christian Gentner put in an industrious shift from central midfield and was nearly everywhere for the hosts. He earned the match-winning penalty for his side with a clever forward run and made sure the fans went home happy.