When 1. FC Union was last able to celebrate such a late victory at Chemnitz Gellertstraße, the world was different. Not only the opponent had a different name back then, but also the stadium and the city. The 3:2 with which Union secured the Oberliga relegation at FC Karl-Marx-Stadt in what was then the Kurt Fischer Stadium in 1988 is still considered one of the most legendary games in the club’s history.
So it may have felt a little nostalgic for some Berliners when Kevin Behrens headed in the 114th minute to make it 2-1 ahead on Monday and shot Union into the second round of the DFB Cup. For most observers, however, there was only relief afterwards. Because the balance of power is now significantly different than it was 34 years ago.
The then outsider Union was now the clear favorite as a Bundesliga club and fell well short of expectations with the narrow win against the fourth division club from Saxony. “It should actually work better. We can’t play a Bundesliga the way we played today,” manager Oliver Ruhnert complained on the Sky microphone after the game.
Luckily they played against a lower-class opponent in the cup on Monday, but with a view to the league opener against Hertha next Saturday, it was still a somewhat sobering performance by the Köpenickers. Before the city derby on the first day of the game, one would have wished for a better dress rehearsal. Even if Hertha experienced his blue miracle in the cup on Sunday.
At the press conference, coach Urs Fischer described his players’ disappointing performance as a “shot across the bow”. After a thoroughly impressive win over Premier League promoted Nottingham Forest in their last friendly, it was a timely reminder that the side still need to find their feet in the new season. “You don’t really know where you stand,” said Fischer. “We didn’t look bad in the friendlies, but when it comes down to something it’s a little different. We have to improve.”
It was partly to be expected that the team is not in top form at this very early stage. As in previous years, there was a major change in the squad in Köpenick this summer. “We got a lot of new ones that we have to integrate. This rhythm, the strength to go over 90 or 120 minutes, that only comes gradually,” said defender Robin Knoche after the 120 tough minutes on club television.
There were only two newcomers in the starting XI on Monday, but there were always coordination problems even between the players who have known each other for a long time. While Fischer criticized the lack of aggressiveness in pressing, Ruhnert criticized the somewhat dull game with the ball. In fact, there were always bad passes, simple ball losses and solo runs into no man’s land.
But there were also some good approaches. New striker Jordan Siebatcheu capped off what was generally a promising competitive debut with a dream goal, and at least at times Union were able to create chances without the departed Grischa Prömel and Taiwo Awoniyi.
Without the great performance of Chemnitz goalkeeper Jakub Jakubov, the Berliners would probably have been allowed to go home after 90 minutes. That’s one of the reasons why we are optimistic about the derby week despite the disappointing performance and the many construction sites. “The coach will put his finger on the wound,” said Knoche. “Of course we will be ready next Saturday and we will set off fireworks at home.”