The football played second fiddle to politics and protests in Berlin as Union Berlin and Wolfsburg played out a tense game of football.
Story of the match
Spring finally sprung today in Germany as Union Berlin welcomed Wolfsburg to the capital under mild blue skies and in the spirit of the season, both sides made changes to their respective line-ups.
Nenad Bjelica, returning to the dugout after his three match suspension following an altercation with Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sane in January, made three changes following the midweek draw with Mainz 05. Diogo Leite, Lucas Tousart and Alex Král came in as Kevin Vogt, Janik Haberer and Aïssa Laïdouni missed out.
As is fast becoming tradition across grounds in Germany, the game started amidst the silence of a 12 minute protest against DFL proposals for private investment but both sides produced enough entertainment to generate noise in the opening exchanges.
Soon after, Wolfsburg went close again as Svanberg saw a volley on the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner but that was to be the final act of football for almost an hour as the game was suspended in the 26th minute.
Following protests in Dortmund and Hamburg against DFL proposals for private investment last night, Union Berlin and Wolfsburg fans suspended the game three times as tennis balls rained down from the stands.
Eventually, with the game re-starting in the 38th minute and 21 minutes added time, football began again but remained second fiddle to the continued protests and chants from the stands.
The first half will be remembered for its absence of football but it finished with an explosion of joy in the stands as Union took the lead.
After another stoppage, this time for an injury, Danilho Doekhi headed in a corner from five yards out in the 45 plus 25 (or 70th) minute.
It was worth waiting for.
Football took centre stage in the second half.
Union continued where they left off in the opening minute as Tousart turned on the penalty spot but saw his shot deflected narrowly over the bar.
In the 54th minute, Lovro Majer went close from the edge of the box as his strike drifted inches wide of Rönnow’s left post.
Wolfsburg threatened again in the 63 minute as a flicked header from Wind drew a finger-tip save from Rönnow.
The game turned tense after that as Wolfsburg pressed for an equaliser and Union tried to counter.
The pitched opened up but chances remained few and far between.
Wolfsburgs best chance came from a free-kick with five minutes remaining.
Maximilian Arnold lined up the ball on the right edge of the box. His curling effort looked destined for the top corner but was deflected wide for a corner.
It was the final action of note in a long match that finished over an hour later than expected but Unioners didn’t seem to care.
It was a vital three points for the hosts in their battle to avoid Bundesliga relegation.
Player of the match: Frederik Rönnow
The Union goalkeeper is making a habit of saving games and proved the difference once again.
Against Mainz 05 in midweek, Rönnow made some outstanding saves as Union held out for a draw away from home. It was only the fourth point die Eisernen have picked up away from home all season.
Today, Rönnow continued his fine form.
His early save from Wind was outstanding, his positioning and handling in the dying minutes as crosses went flung into the box were just as impressive.
In the 82nd minute, he scrambled across his goal-line to tip the ball off Kevin Behren’s head with the rest of his defence out of position.
In the 89th minute, as Wolfsburg continued to pile forward, Rönnow came and collected a high cross that was cheered as loud as a goal.
Those cheers was elevated when Rönnow produced another fine stop in added time to seal the victory.
It was enough for Union Berlin’s second win in five and only their fourth clean sheet all season.
It lifted the hosts six points clear of FC Köln in 16th and within two points of Wolfsburg in 12th.