Two goals on the counter-attack see Uwe Neuhaus’ Union Berlin take all three points from the Ostderby in Dresden, leaving the hosts one point above the foot of the table.
A brace from Fabian Schönheim, given a new position in attacking midfield, was enough to give Union Berlin a 2-0 victory over Dynamo Dresden at the Glücksgas Stadion on Sunday in front of 29,425 fans. The hosts dominated possession and territory for much of the match but couldn’t find the net, and were met with a committed and solid Union Berlin side who gave their best defensive display of the season. The defeat was Dresden’s fourth in six at home in 2012/13.
The two sides went into the match in similar positions. Both were in the lower half of the table after slow starts to the campaign, and both had been knocked out of the DFB Pokal in midweek, although in rather different circumstances. Dynamo had produced one of their best performances of the season, but lost on penalties in Hannover; while Union were shocked by 3rd tier side Kickers Offenbach. The cup results impacted on the match in different ways: Dynamo were missing captain Robert Koch and tired as the match went on, whereas Uwe Neuhaus made tactical changes and demanded greater commitment in the wake of their poor defeat. He got the desired response.
Line-ups and tactics
Formationally, it was more-or-less a 4-4-2 vs 4-3-3, although Union used three central midfielders not with the intention of dominating possession, but protecting the defence, and focused their attacks on long balls and wing-play, with Silvio often dropping very deep. Dynamo’s strategy centred around the possession play and distribution of Cristian Fiel, who saw much of the ball and was easily the hosts’ most productive player. Anthony Losilla looked to drift in from wide areas with Sebastian Schuppan overlapping, a strategy which left a lot of space on that flank and did more harm than good.
Tactically, Uwe Neuhaus had made some interesting comments prior to the game. Reacting to the Offenbach defeat, he wanted a fiery response, and called for aggression from his players. “Technique, game intelligence and creativity are going to take a back seat”, he said. He also made a few tactical changes, altering the usual 4-4-2 by pushing defender Fabian Schönheim into a more attacking position and moving Björn Jopek into a midfield three.
Union’s more aggressive style took a while to show its effects, as Dynamo controlled possession from an early stage. Fiel and Solga looked to work the ball into wide positions, where Ouali and Losilla were lively early on. The deep-sitting Fiel looked to play incisive through balls: one lofted pass early on put Losilla clean through in the centre, but his shot was blocked by Haas in the visitors’ goal and Poté couldn’t bundle in the rebound. The host won a few free-kicks and corners early on, with Poté sending a free header over the bar.
On thirteen minutes, Losilla had drifted inside again, but lost the ball. Out of position, Union had a 2 v 1 on the right side. Markus Karl had time to pick out the on-rushing Schönheim with a fine diagonal pass. Schönheim took the ball down before guiding a superb left-footed finish past Benjamin Kirsten for the opening goal. It was an excellent goal on the counter for a side who had seen little of the ball until that point.
Dynamo continued to dominate possession and send many balls into the box. Roman Brégerie stabbed a good chance over the bar from a Fiel free-kick. But as the half went on, Union started to beat their opponents to the ball and force them into mistakes. Karl capitalised on an error in the centre and his shot deflected off Silvio and flew just wide past the helpless Kirsten. By half-time, the hosts had six corners, put in twelve crosses and had 61% possession, with Fiel’s distribution and influence superb. But clear-cut chances were at a premium and Union defended the aerial bombardment solidly, while the visitors had worked their way into the game with their hard and committed approach.
Neither side made changes at half-time and the second half began in much the same vein as the first. Dynamo were looking the better side but were soon hit on the break again in clinical fashion. Schönheim moved the ball to Silvio in the centre, who guided a superb through pass to Zoundi, who was clear from Schuppan on the right side. Zoundi squared for Schönheim who had continued his run for an easy finish to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Ralf Loose brought on the 1.93m Petar Sliskovic for the quiet Lynel Kitambala to increase the hosts’ aerial threat. Sliskovic was immediately involved, missing an open goal from a Losilla centre, claiming to have been pulled back. Then Fiel was inches away from connecting to a Solga cross, and Losilla forced a fine save from Hass with a rasping shot after a good move. Gradually it became clear that the hosts were tiring, and their opponents had drawn them into a physical battle, negating their dangerous fluid style. Having two target men up front didn’t help Dynamo’s approach play either, and, as frustration set in, Romain Brégerie might have been sent off late on for a rash tackle. By the Fiel and Ouali were withdrawn, Dynamo were tired and out of ideas, and Union held on comfortably for an excellent victory.
Uwe Neuhaus will have every reason to be delighted with his side. He demanded aggression and desire from his side, and he got it. Dynamo inevitably found it hard to play through a defensive Union, who also committed more to the match than their opponents and this was a huge factor in the win. His tactical change paid off too. Schönheim seemed to relish his new position and timed his runs very naturally for both of his goals, the first of which was an excellent finish. Neuhaus’ side were comfortable at the back and clinical going forward in an away display which ticked all the boxes.
As for Dynamo Dresden, they dominated in spells but, with Union handling the aerial threat well, Ralf Loose’s side badly lacked an alternative strategy, and were exposed on the left-side, which was the source of both goals. Here, the coach may point to the absence of some of his most influential and creative players, namely Koch and Filip Trojan, and the 120 minutes played in Hannover in midweek, but this was a disappointing display and result, their seventh of the season and fourth at home. Worryingly, it’s not the first time this season Dynamo have had the better of the statistics but been beaten.
Overall, Union deserved the win, despite seeing less of the ball. Neuhaus’ bold tactical changes led to a much-improved defensive display from a side who looked more organised and confident than at any stage this season. The result lifts Union to 10th in the 2. Bundesliga table, with Dynamo in 15th.
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