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1. FC Köln vs 1. FC Union Berlin

Bundesliga, 33. Matchday

Köln vs 1. FC Union

Bundesliga, 33. Matchday

Sat., 11. May 2024, 15:30 Uhr
Cologne Stadium
3 : 2
SR: Deniz Aytekin

Union Lose in Köln

Match report

1. FC Union lost 3-2 to FC Köln in a heartbreaking, if utterly compelling, match on Saturday afternoon that saw both sides battling for their Bundesliga survival. Robin Knoche and Kevin Volland’s first half goals were balanced out, then overtaken by those of Florian Kainz, Steffen Tigges and Damion Downs.

1. FC Union Berlin:Rönnow – Trimmel (72. Juranović), Doekhi, Knoche, Leite, Roussillon (60. Tousart) – Aaronson (54. Hollerbach), Khedira (46. Haberer), Schäfer, Gosens – Volland (54. Bedia) 
1. FC Köln: Schwäbe – Schmitz (46. Heintz), Hübers, Chabot, Finkgräfe – Alidou (75. Downs), Huseinbašć, Martel (61. Uth), Kainz – Adamyan (46. Tigges), Waldschmidt (20. Maina)

The starting XI

Marco Grote had decided to go on the attack for his first game back in charge of Union, and started with a back three of Diogo Leite, Robin Knoche – in for Kevin Vogt – and Danilho Doekhi, ahead of Frederik Rönnow in goal, but his major surprises were left for farther afield as Jérôme Roussillon came in as the left wing-back, opposite Christopher Trimmel on the right, leaving space for Robin Gosens to join an attack with Brenden Aaronson and Kevin Volland, while Rani Khedira and Andras Schäfer would make up the midfield.

Goals: 0-1 Knoche (15); 0-2 Volland (19); 1-2 Kainz (45); 2-2 Tigges (87); Downs (90+3)

Attendance: 50.000

Union take the lead through Knoche and Volland. Kainz pulls one back for the hosts

Maybe the blazing sunshine didn’t help in the end. Football is the cruellest game, and as a wise man once said, “it’s the hope I could do without.”

But by the final whistle, as the former Müngersdorfer stadium erupted in inexplicable glee at Köln’s turnaround, the Union players were shattered, knackered. They’d sweated out every drop. It had been so often that they were the ones that had come back from nowhere, it hurt all the more to be on the receiving end of it.

For Union’s 3-2 loss felt like it hadn’t happened, somehow. They were as if stunned. In front of a fantastic stadium full of roaring, baying fans, Union were excellent in places, and showed their intent early. Schäfer snapped into early tackles, Trimmel rose for a header, hitting the ball straight upfield towards Gosens.

He would say after the final whistle, "We're simply having a difficult season and have inconsistent phases in our games time and again. We got off to a great start to the game, but then conceded an unfortunate goal before the break."

Sargis Adamyan then tried to beat Knoche down the left but was quickly stilted. Florian Kainz, the Köln captain, and a man who would have more influence as the game wore on, pulled a ball inside early that Luca Waldschmidt dragged over the bar.

It was wild, if imprecise stuff, from two sides who couldn’t risk losing, who both had to win. Khedira’s tackle on the latter a moment later left the Köln midfielder on the floor.

The break - as Waldschmidt writhed on the ground - immediately saw the Union players come together. Volland chatted to Trimmel expressively, pointing towards the spaces he could see opening up, even if they hadn’t yet. They would, he seemed to say.

But their host’s desire to win couldn’t be underestimated, even as Union looked the better side. Adamyan should have done better when Benno Schmitz’s ball was chipped in towards him. If anything, the deafening volume looked like it was unsettling both sides as the opening minutes played out.

But still the hosts came on, the stadium booming its support – this was a matter of life and death for Köln – and indeed they looked sharp in places; Eric Martel charged in to intercept Trimmel’s clever through ball after seven minutes. Trimmel tried another a minute later that was cut out before it reached Volland. He was striving to get in behind the lines and would have more joy as the half played out.

For Union were growing in confidence, and after 15 minutes took the lead. The superb Aaronson won a corner out on the right, after cleverly linking up with the onrushing Doekhi. Union had been pushing up, already. Trimmel clipped the set-piece into the box where Robin Knoche rose to flick it home, from acres of space.

Union were jubilant, and their mood was only improved a minute later as Doekhi was certain he’d won a penalty as his header struck Alidou’s hand in the box. Of course, the referee went to the video assistant, and of course it took an age. But all the while Kevin Volland stood with the ball in his hand, having been presented to him by Roussillon, cleaned and wiped and dried down, regally.

He stroked it down the middle, as Marvin Schwäbe, dived to his right. Though the Köln keeper stretched his legs out, there was nothing he could do.

Immediately the home boss, Timo Schultz, reacted, taking off his striker, Luca Waldschmidt for Linton Maina. But Köln were in pieces at that point. Jeff Chabot tried to hit a deep, swinging ball out to Faride Alidou, but it sailed miles over his head.

Meanwhile Aaronson and Schäfer combined on the right, the American’s flicked ball outside leading to a cross that won another corner. Köln shook as Trimmel took it, this time from the left, but they could rest easy this time as it was hoicked clear.

Khedira was back quickly as Max Finkgräfe tried to break in the other direction, just as Knoche and Leite did superbly to shepherd the ball away with almost half an hour played, Schäfer picking up the ball and taking three men with him as he bore down into the Köln half. Volland then did superbly to track back and rob Finkgräfe on the halfway line, just as Leite got in ahead of Maina.  

Union were trying to turn the screw, to use their momentum, and Roussillon, a menace on the left, turned Schmitz inside out, but Volland couldn’t make more of the chance with 13 minutes of the half to play; Aaronson’s backheel to Knoche following another free kick was a delight. It took the full weight of Chabot to cut out Volland’s cross as Gosens loomed in the box with intent.

Aaronson was unplayable at times, as he drifted out the right, as he flicked and turned and tricked. He had said in midweek he was in the form of his life, and it showed. His slide rule pass to Gosens on 41 minutes found him just an inch offside as he bore down on Schwäbe’s goal.

Bu then Köln had a sniff. Khedira got caught up with Timo Hübers in the box, getting them a penalty. Kainz stepped up, with Rönnow an ich behind his line, checking his gloves, pointing to his right. Kainz went the other way, as did Union’s stopper, but his shot was too true. It was 2-1, and there were five minutes of the half still to play.

Tigges scores with three minutes to play, before Down breaks the Unioner’s hearts

Grote made just the single change at half time, bringing on Janik Haberer for Khedira in midfield. And though Köln won a corner early, their momentum was broken by Roussillon’s clash with Denis huseinbasic. That mattered little though, as Alidou found an inch of space in the box, and should have done better with barely five minutes of the half played, skewing the ball over the bar from five yards out. Leite then did well to clear Maina’s cross, his hands behind his back, just in case.

Aaronson, meanwhile, was always there on the break, ready to spring, and the former Union player, Dominique Heintz, a half time substitute for the hosts, did well to stop him sprinting clear shortly after. But that was the last the American would see of the ball, he was replaced alongside Volland by Benedict Hollerbach and Chris Bedia with 35 minutes still to play.

Roussillon had the bit between his teeth, but he would overstretch himself. He robbed Kaimz in the centre circle, charging in on goal, and pulling up as he shot. He limped off the field, his shirt over his face as whistles rained down from the partisan support, while it took another superb intervention from Leite to stop Alidou charging down the gap he left behind.

Leite was excellent. He was there again when Maina crossed from the right, as he was when Schmitz crossed from the left a moment later. He was also there to put Alidou off, conceding a corner after 65 minutes.

He then flicked Trimmel’s corner goalwards with 25 minutes to play when suddenly alone, his header true, but grimaced as he saw it come off the top of the bar.

By this point, Union were holding on, repelling wave after wave of Köln attacks. Maina came again down the right, this time bending his shot wide of the back post by inches.

But they fought back. Hollerbach won a corner, before Schäfer was brutally brought down by Huseinbasic out on the right. But Haberer’s free kick was gleefully taken by Schwäbe at chest height. Kainz scuffed his cross over Rönnow’s goal from wide out on the right when he should have done better before Gosens snuffed out another of hundreds of Maina crosses from the right. Mark Uth dragged his own shot wide when he found a bit of space to aim at goal.

It was wild stuff by this point, nerves were fraying everywhere, the importance of the game weighing down on everyone. Union countered, Juranović’s clipped free kick was headed back across goal by a towering Knoche, but Hollerbach couldn’t quite get on the end of it.

 Schwäbe was now stepping ever further out of his box, as passes from both sides went astray. Suddenly the home fans were getting jittery, while the Unioner, still bathed in sunshine sung relentlessly on. Schäfer found Hollerbach out on the right, springing the trap, winning a corner with five minutes to play.

But for them, it wasn’t to be. Steffen Tigges headed home with three minutes of normal time to play; his joy met with a deathly silence as again it went to the video assistant. But after an age the referee pointed to the centre circle. It was 2-2. The home fans exploded in joy; their hopes of Bundesliga survival given the slightest of lifelines.

Schäfer set up Juranović, whose shot was deflected wide before Huseinbasic got in the way of a ball to Bedia as the Union striker seemed to be away down the inside left. Schäfer then hit his shot straight at Schwäbe.

But Union were now clinging on, their energy sapped, their batteries empty, while the Köln players managed to find an extra breath. And their hearts were to be broken only seconds later as Maina broke down the right and squared for Damion Downs to head home.

The stadium shook to its very foundations, and the Union players slumped to the floor; they’d given everything.

Trimmel summed it up at the end, saying, "We now have to look forward. We can only do it together." And how right he was. 

At the final whistle they dragged themselves up to go to the magnificent fans in their corner, and they stayed for minutes that felt like hours in the despair of the moment. The hope wasn’t gone. Absolutely not, but it had been the hardest of games,

Grote and Eta looked on. They knew that it would all come down to next weekend.









Away Duel on the Rhine

Match preview

On Saturday, 11.05.2024, 1. FC Union Berlin will face 1. FC Köln in their penultimate Bundesliga fixture of the season. Kick off at the RheinEnergieSTADION is at 15:30.

The lie of the land

The "Effzeh" picked up a point at home against SC Freiburg last weekend, with a 0-0 draw while Union, on the other hand, lost 4-3 at home to VfL Bochum. Despite a furious comeback in the second half, the hosts were unable to make up for the 3-0 half-time deficit. 

The opponents

Köln are currently 17th in the table and therefore face the direct danger of relegation. With 24 points and a six-point gap to a non-relegation place with two games remaining, the club needs two wins to stay up. Apart from the already relegated SV Darmstadt, with -30, they have the worst goal difference in the league.  To compound that they also have the weakest attack in the league, statistically speaking, having scored only 24 goals.

In their last five matches, 1. FC Köln have recorded one win, two draws and two defeats, scoring three goals in the process. They have won four matches in total so far this season, three of them in the RheinEnergieSTADION.

The reunions

Dominique Heintz was under contract with Union from January 2022 to August 2023. During this time, the 30 year old defender was loaned out to Bochum for a season.

Kevin Vogt is also returning to an old club. The Union's new winter signing played a total of 60 competitive matches for 1. FC Köln between 2014 and 2016.

The head to head

The two sides have already faced each other 17 times, with Union having won nine, Köln five and three draws. In the Bundesliga Union are unbeaten against them, with seven wins and two draws in nine encounters, the last of which was the 2-0 win at the end of 2023 when a 2-0 win saw them rise to 16th place.

The personnel

Union coach Marco Grote can look forward to having a full squad of players to choose from on Saturday afternoon.

The coaches’ views ahead of the game

"Everyone involved is aware of the situation,” said a confident Marco Grote, Union’s coach, during his press conference on Friday afternoon. “It's the penultimate matchday, so there's always a certain amount of pressure, but that's also what makes it so exciting. Our team spirit is strong, we exude a lot of energy and that's exactly what we want to bring to the pitch tomorrow from the very first second. We're all up for this game!"

His opposite number, Timo Schultz, meanwhile said, "It's felt like we've had no alternative but to win for weeks. But now it really is a final game. The way the team has presented itself in the last few games, there's only one way to go on Saturday and that's forward. We now have to make sure that we keep the three points here and play another final in Heidenheim."

Service information

The team can look forward to around 5,000 Union fans traveling with them, all further information about visiting the stadium can be found here (German). 

The match will be broadcast live on Sky, and there will also be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and rbb24. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match via the club's own live ticker, as well as in English and Spanish on Twitter.

AFTV Videos

Christopher Trimmel

Christopher Trimmel

was Player of the Day for the last time against Köln

Christopher Trimmel

was Player of the Day against Köln


1. FC Köln vs 1. FC Union Berlin

62 % Possession 38 %
77 % Pass Completion Rate 66 %
47 % Successful Tackle Rate 53 %
18 Shots on Goal 13
27 Crosses 15
3 Yellow Cards 2
0 Yellow-Red Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0

Last match

Date Home Result Away