The first top-flight Berlin derby of the season ended in a comfortable victory for the hosts, Union Berlin. Since their remarkable campaign last year, Union has hardly looked back and are proving they’re not a one-trick pony.
With just under eight minutes on the clock, Union got their first of the night courtesy of in-form striker, Taiwo Awoniyi. It was the Nigerian’s 8th goal in the Bundesliga this season and he couldn’t have asked for a better chance. The original ball through to the forward should never have reached him only for some slack Hertha defending. Awoniyi then sent the keeper the wrong way and thus put the majority of fans inside Stadion An der Alten Försterei into rapture.
From there, Union continued to dominate with Hertha showing little in the way of scoring opportunities. On the half hour mark, Union doubled their lead with a pearler of a shot by Christopher Trimmel. The corner bypassed all inside the box before Trimmel wrapped his foot around the ball which eventually made its way into the far corner. Whether it was a shot or a cross, only Trimmel knows. Just before the break, Hertha thought they had found a way back into it. Peter Pekarik’s headed effort gave the away support hope only for VAR to cancel the goal out. This would be as close as Hertha would come in terms of mounting any sort of fightback.
In the second half, Union could and perhaps should have increased their advantage. If it wasn’t for some outstanding saves from Hertha goalkeeper, Alexander Schwolow, and the woodwork, the game could have finished a resounding 4-0. In the end, Union were dominant throughout with their city rivals unable to respond.
For Hertha fans, this sort of result raises the question; why are our city rivals overtaking us in every aspect when we’ve been in the top flight more consistently throughout both of our histories? On the face of it, Hertha Berlin has more money, possibly more exposure on a global scale, and so on. So why do we see Union striving and Hertha underachieving?
For some, it all comes down to how the clubs are run internally. In recent seasons, Hertha has invested greatly into their squad thanks to their extremely wealthy owners. However, as they’ve soon discovered, money does not guarantee you success, especially when it comes to football. Their managerial appointments and squad incomings have all failed for one reason or another. In just three years, Hertha has dismissed four coaches and are now on their fifth. There seems to be a huge problem within the club and it’s showing on the pitch. For far too long Hertha has unachieved and looked more likely to be relegated than finishing in a European place (which was the owner’s intention).
On the other hand, Union are a club with an identity, a brilliant fan culture, and while others have changed, they have not. On paper, they are one of the smallest clubs in the Bundesliga. However, since their promotion, Union has enjoyed a top-half finish and now European football. This type of fan-focused identity may come from the club’s stance during the 1960s when the Berlin Wall was erected. Most clubs in the East represented the military or police whereas Union saw themselves as more anti-establishment and provided a voice for the normal worker. This may have affected their overall success during these times but Union were happy doing what they believed in.
Just to add even further romance to the Union Berlin story, their most recent stadium modernisation was completed by the fans themselves. During the 2008/09 season, more than 2,300 supporters provided 14,000 hours of labour time and saved their club many millions of euros. This type of dedication isn’t lost on the players either. In 2021, Union has only lost once at home in the league and that was to current champions, Bayern Munich.
In all, it was a fairly comfortable derby win for Union Berlin who created more chances, saw more of the ball, and most importantly scored the most goals. This result not only puts Union into fifth but also provides a stark contrast between themselves and their city neighbours. Union is a club that knows where they stand whereas Hertha is struggling to find their identity both on and off the pitch. This tale is perhaps refreshing for football as a whole unless, of course, if you’re a Hertha fan.
1 | After a meeting on Thursday morning at Bayern Munich’s HQ, it’s emerged that the club will withhold the salaries of unvaccinated players that have to quarantine. One of the unvaccinated players, Joshua Kimmich, missed Bayern Munich’s 2-1 defeat at Augsburg on Friday night. Mads Pedersen opened the scoring before Andre Hahn doubled Augsburg’s lead inside 35 minutes and Robert Lewandowski’s goal two minutes later wasn’t enough for the league leaders as they suffered their second defeat of the season. It then got worse for Bayern Munich as it emerged on Sunday that Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Mickaël Cuisance have entered quarantine following consultation with the health authorities after a contact person tested positive for Covid-19 – the quartet, like Kimmich, is unvaccinated.
2 | Borussia Dortmund capitalised on Bayern Munich’s defeat with a 2-1 win against Stuttgart on Saturday. Die Schwarzgelben have moved to within one point of Bayern as Marco Reus continued his excellent season with a winner five minutes from the end. Persistence paid off for Donyell Malen as the Dutchman opened his Bundesliga account with an excellent strike on the hour mark, before Roberto Massimo equalised three minutes later. “We’re ambitious and want to stay up there at the top,” said BVB head coach Marco Rose after the game. As we enter into the Christmas period, for once, it may look like we could have a title race on our hands.
3 | Two goals in one minute from Wout Weghorst and Lukas Nmecha rescued a point for Wolfsburg against Arminia Bielefeld. Saturday’s fixture was a test for Florian Kohfeldt who had enjoyed an impressive start to his tenure as Wolfsburg head coach. With three consecutive wins in all competitions, Wolfsburg were 2-0 down inside the hour against Bielefeld and had it all to do to keep within reach of the European places. “We showed a great mentality,” said Weghorst, who scored his first goal in six matches. The Dutchman is creating quite the partnership with Nmecha, who has scored in every game under Kohfeldt, and rightfully deserved a call-up to Hansi Flick’s Germany squad.