Bayern Munich's Canadian midfielder Alphonso Davies (R) and Union Berlin's German midfielder Rani Khedira vie for the ball during the German first division Bundesliga football match betwen 1 FC Union Berlin and FC Bayern Munich in Berlin on September 3, 2022. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) / DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO

Andras Schäfer was lying on the ground after being hit on the head. Beside him, Julian Ryerson hobbled to the sidelines and gratefully accepted a water bottle. Less than an hour had passed between 1. FC Union and FC Bayern Munich in the An der Alten Försterei stadium and it already looked like an epic battle on the field.

In the run-up to this game, there was talk of a top duel. And although the theoretical class difference between the two teams was clearly visible in some cases, the game lived up to the name in the end. In the sunshine of Köpenick, two teams met in top form on Saturday and, after an at least emotionally thrilling encounter, deservedly separated 1-1.

When the duel came to an end, it got as loud as it can only get in the old forester’s house. The fans now enjoy watching victories here. But what really excites them is an epic fight. And they got it delivered.

You couldn’t lose in this game anyway. In purely tabular terms, Union went into the game on an equal footing with Bayern. After four matchdays, both teams had ten points, the Berliners were only behind the record champions because of the slightly worse goal difference. With a win, you knew that before kick-off, you would take the lead in the table.

However, little was expected, and before the game in Köpenick characteristically deep stacked. The program reminded us that until recently, the big FC Bayern only came to Köpenick for the benefit game, and there was almost a cup atmosphere in the stands. “We will win or lose.

It doesn’t matter, we stand by you,” said the fan choreo, which covered the entire stadium in red and white shortly before kick-off. After the long run of success, the first setback of the season was expected here.

Union also had to accept the first setback right before kick-off. Several players were missing from the starting XI who had excelled in the 6-1 win against Schalke a week earlier. Janik Haberer had to make way for Andras Schäfer in midfield for “private reasons”. The same happened to the recently dangerous striker Jordan Siebatcheu, who was replaced by Kevin Behrens because of “muscular problems”. Diogo Leite was also injured and Paul Jaeckel replaced him in the back three.

There was also a lot of rotation at Bayern after the 5-0 cup win against Viktoria Köln, but with the resources of a record champion, the rotation looks a little different, as is well known. Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry were not in the starting XI. But Sadio Mané, Manuel Neuer and Jamal Musiala do.

Nevertheless, the game actually looked like a top game at eye level in the initial phase. The guests were superior in terms of play, but Union can now attack any opponent, and that’s what the Köpenicker did in the 12th minute. After a foul on Andras Schäfer, Christopher Trimmel chipped a delicate free kick into the penalty area, which Sheraldo Becker directed almost nonchalantly into the bottom corner.

This triggered unbridled euphoria in the stands, which, however, only lasted a few minutes. Bayern immediately put pressure on, Union’s defense got hectic for a moment and Joshua Kimmich quickly equalized with an outraged, hissing low shot.

That could have been the end of that top game feeling but Union remained brave and both sides created more chances before the break. Behrens and Trimmel caused a stir in Bayern’s penalty area and Leroy Sané took the lead after a good pass from Musiala ten minutes before the break. Only because Frederik Rönnow held his foot outstandingly did it remain 1-1.

Rönnow also shone in the second half and was sovereign several times when Union had their backs to the wall. The Köpenicker still didn’t allow themselves to be intimidated, and they almost took the lead again themselves. Jamie Leweling, who came on for Becker, failed from close range to Neuer.

The crowd cheered when a long-range shot from Bayern missed the goal in added time. You weren’t the leader of the table, but you had survived the top duel in the best possible way. And that was as good as a win.