Union Berlin 2-2 Heidenheim: Hosts not at their Beste as they settle for draw
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 24: Andras Schaefer of 1.FC Union Berlin celebrates scoring his team's second goal with team mates during the Bundesliga match between 1. FC Union Berlin and 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 at the An der Alten Foersterei on February 24, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Luciano Lima/Getty Images)

Union Berlin looked destined to win their first Bundesliga game coming from behind until Jan-Niklas Beste equalised for Heidenheim in the second-half.

The visitors had gone ahead early on through Nikola Dovedan, before Union Berlin pegged them back with goals from Robin Gosens and Andras Schäfer.

In the end, both sides had to settle for a point in a game neither deserved to lose.

Story of the match

Spring finally sprung in Köpenick as Union Berlin welcomed Heidenheim looking to make history.

The hosts had never won five home games in a row in the Bundesliga but following a run of form that has lifted spirits and die Eisernen 8 points clear of the relegation zone, Head Coach Nenad Bjelica was on the precipice of doing what his predecessors couldn’t.

Bjelica made four changes to the side that beat Hoffenheim 1-0 away last weekend with Kevin Volland a noticeable absentee following his red card in Hoffenheim.

American goalscorer, Brendan Aaronson was rewarded with a start alongside Adras Schäfer, Josip Juranovic and Robin Knoche.

The visitors arrived in the capital just dreaming of a win.

With only one win in six, Frank Schmidt made one change to the side that narrowly lost to runaway Bundesliga leaders, Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.

Nikola Dovedan came in for Adrian Beck.

It proved to be a masterstroke.

In the third minute, Dovedan sprung the offside trap to cooly finish past an onrushing Frederik Rönnow.

Union Berlin were shell-shocked and for the opening half hour, they struggled to create chances.

Then, suddenly, they came alive.

In the 30th minute, Aaronson danced through the Heidenheim defence but took one too many touches as Kevin Müller was able to smother the ball in the six-yard box.

A few minutes later, Danilho Doekhi rose highest from a corner but could not direct his free header on target.

In the 44th, Union Berlin found a deserved equaliser. 

Robin Gosens squeezed the ball into the bottom left corner after Heidenheim failed to clear a free-kick.

A minute later and Union Berlin were ahead.

A loose touch in midfielder, invited Schäfer to run at the heart of the Heidenheim defence unchallenged. On the edge of the box he unleashed a fierce effort that, with the aid of Aaronson’s back, nestled into the top corner.

The half-tine whistle could barely be heard above the delirium of the locals as they dreamt of winning their first game from behind this season.

Second half

Union and Schäfer began the second half where they left off.

In the 48th minute, Schäfer found himself in space on the edge of the box but this time, Müller was equal to the strike.

In the 63rd minute, the visitors went close to equalising as a glanced header by Tim Kleindienst from a corner fell agonisingly wide of Rönnow’s left post.

It eventually came in the 70th minute as a delightful lob by Jan-Niklas Beste evaded Rönnow.

The game soon went end-to-end as both sides pushed for a winner.

A few minutes later, Union were nearly back ahead as Lucas Tousart rose high in the box but could not keep his header down from six yards.

It proved to be the final chance of note as both sides settled for a point in an entertaining game.

Player of the match: Andras Schäfer

After missing most of the second half of last season and the first half of this season, Schäfer struggled to get back into the side after a long-term ankle injury but is slowly making himself indispensable for Nenad Bjelica.

With fewer than 24 appearances in the last two seasons, Schäfer had registered just one goal and one assist.

This season, he has already matched that in just ten appearances and looks destined for more.

Schäfer looks like he is enjoying his football again.

His goal today took a fortuitous deflection but his confidence to run at the Hoffenheim defence, his ability to take on players and beat them one-on-one provided a spark when Union Berlin’s attack was faltering.

On and off the ball, Schäfer never wastes a moment. 

He role models exactly what Bjelica is looking for from his side: Tenacity, adaptability and composure.

Schäfer played at least four different positions today across the midfield and attack, even taking on a defensive role late on as he looked to turn creator.

Unfortunately for Union Berlin, it wasn’t enough but it was another point in the right direction.

The draw lifted the hosts into 12th, extending their unbeaten run at home to six, whilst Heidenheim rose above Hoffenheim into ninth but still without a win in seven games.

Mid-table mediocrity seems inevitable for both sides this Bundesliga season.