In this Union Berlin season review, we take a look back at a remarkable campaign which saw the club achieve qualification to next seasons Europa Conference League.
Playing in just their second-ever Bundesliga campaign, Die Eisernen secured a seventh-placed finish, just two points behind Bayer Leverkusen in sixth.
Union Berlin Season Review: European Qualification in Just Second Bundesliga Season
Summer Transfer Window
Union ended last season in 11th place, level on points with rivals Hertha Berlin and ten points clear of the drop. While that was seen as an impressive first-ever season in the top flight, Urs Fischer and his side have exceeded expectations once again this year.
Fischer knew he needed some reinforcements in the summer. Out went Sebastian Andersson, Sebastian Polter and Rafal Gikiewicz, among others, while Max Kruse, Nico Schlotterbeck and Andreas Luthe were just some of the key players to arrive.
Opening Day Defeat Followed by Eight-Game Unbeaten Run
Like last season, Union lost at home on the opening day. Augsburg were the visitors to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei and they ran out 3-1 winners thanks to two late goals.
However, Fischer’s side responded professionally and would go the next eight league games unbeaten. A 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach was followed by a 4-0 home win against Mainz.
Successive 1-1 draws against Schalke and Freiburg followed before victories over Hoffenheim, Arminia Bielefeld and Köln. The final result in the run came in a thrilling 3-3 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt where Union raced into a two-goal lead but fell behind with just ten minutes remaining before Kruse levelled late on.
Defeat would inevitably come at some point, but to lose against rivals Hertha at the Olympiastadion would have been a bitter blow.
Union took an early lead but Robert Andrich was sent off midway through the first half. After the break, Hertha took their numerical advantage and ran out 3-1 winners.
Points Against the Big Boys
A good start could have accounted for nothing with the upcoming fixtures for Union. The capital club would face Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig in their next seven league fixtures.
However, Union earned themselves a credible draw against Bayern and were unlucky not to come away with all three points, before a 2-2 draw at Stuttgart.
Back to back home games followed and Union took four points from encounters against Wolfsburg and Leverkusen before defeat at Leipzig ended another impressive run.
Inconsistent Second Half of the Season
Union would have been pleased with their standing at the halfway point. However, a second successive defeat came at Augsburg before draws against Monchengladbach and Schalke either side of a loss at Mainz.
Union then hit a positive run. A win at Freiburg boosted their European ambitions and that was followed up with back to back draws against Hoffenheim and Bielefeld respectively. While they may have felt like points dropped at the time, a win over Köln made it five games without a defeat.
An uncharacteristic 5-2 loss in Frankfurt was followed by a 1-1 draw in the Berlin derby. Union then faced the tricky run of five games against top teams from their final seven matches.
Final Run-In Secures European Qualification
A second 1-1 draw against Bayern began Union’s charge for Europe. A win over Stuttgart was followed with defeat in Dortmund but Die Eisernen regained composure and won at home against Werder Bremen, with Joel Pohjanpalo scoring the club’s first-ever top-flight hat-trick.
A 3-0 defeat was followed up with a 1-1 draw in Leverkusen. Results meant that that Union needed to better Monchengladbach’s result on the final day to secure European qualification.
With Die Fohlen winning 4-2 at Bremen, Union found themselves one goal down at home to RB Leipzig. A stunning strike from Marvin Friedrich levelled the match before player of the season Kruse scored with the final kick of the game.
While there were no cup runs this season, Union enjoyed some credible results throughout the campaign. Urs Fischer, who also signed a contract extension in December, saw his side lose just once at home all season while they suffered just eight defeats in the Bundesliga from 34 games. To top it off, only three teams conceded fewer goals than Union all season.