By Ultan Corcoran @UltanCorcoran
Leaving Sweden victorious last week having won the game with ten men and a mere 28% possession, Union welcomed Malmo to the Alte Foersterei tonight. The Kopenick side would have known that this was a crucial game prior to kick-off. Given the strength of Group D, a win was necessary to keep their chances of progression to the Europa League knockout round alive. Fortunately, Urs Fischer’s troops were too much for their Swedish opposition as Union ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a late Knoche goal.
|Morten Thorsby.||Photo: 1. FC Union Berlin|
Both sides demonstrated their attacking intent down the wings inside the opening exchanges. Becker’s cross narrowly missing Haberer in the box, while Malmo’s Martin Olsson forced Diogo Leite into a fine clearance. The aforesaid Leite was in the wars early on – two heavy aerial duels with Kiese Thelin left the Portuguese defender stricken albeit temporarily. Malmo’s Diawara made two fine saves as Union’s confidence began to grow. The first, an audacious shot from Becker while the second came from Trimmel after a well worked corner routine.
For all of Union’s dominance in possession, the final ball or requisite finish was missing. Multiple deliveries from Trimmel and Haraguchi rained in around the penalty area but came to nothing. Another Becker strike sailed over the crossbar, while Leite’s late snapshot nestled Diawara’s assured grasp as it remained deadlocked at the break.
‘Die Eisernen’ thought they had made the breakthrough on 57 minutes, but celebrations were short lived. A defence splitting pass from Khedira allowed Becker in to finish across Diawara into the bottom right corner. Unfortunately, the offside flag was raised as the Burkina Faso forward made his goal bound run too early. Just after the hour make and Union went a step closer hitting the post. Khedira’s scuffed effort deceived Diawara only to clip the upright as the Alte Foertserei atmosphere increased.
As the clock hit 70 minutes the Koepenick side thought they had won a penalty when substitute Thorsby went to ground under pressure. On second viewing referee Stavrev cruelly reversed his decision, booking the Norwegian for a suspected foul instead. Substitute Kevin Behrens made an almost instant impact when he won a spot kick for definite this time. Lomotey the guilty party as he hauled down the German frontman. Knoche made no mistake from 12 yards as he dispatched with power and precision as the Union faithful erupted. Things went from bad to worse for Malmo – Lomotey who gave away the penalty received a straight red for a lunge on Becker. That was enough for Union who can finish no lower than 3rd in Group D, sitting a point behind second placed Braga with 2 games to play.