Union Saint-Gilloise shared the spoils with a 3-3 draw at Union Berlin in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday evening.
On a snowy night in Berlin, the Brussels side took the lead three times through Victor Boniface (28th, 72nd) and Yorbe Vertessen (58th). For Union Berlin, Josip Juranovic (42nd), Robin Knoche (69th) and Sven Michel (89th) kept the game in the balance for the second leg scheduled for next Thursday at 21:00 in Anderlecht.
The first quarter of an hour went in favour of the Germans, who were driven by the crowd despite the heavy snowfall. Union Berlin kept possession away from the Belgians and created two huge opportunities, with Moris coming out to save his team twice (9th and 17th).
Like in the last time they played in Berlin, Union Saint-Gilloise opened the score, with a magnificent shot from 25 yards by striker Victor Boniface in the 28th minute. The Nigerian marksman turned and took a shot which – taking a deflection off a defender – went into the top corner to make 0-1. It is his 4th goal in 7 Europa League matches.
After Union Saint-Gilloise took control of the game, Berlin quickly equalised with a free kick at the end of the first half. A superb free-kick by Berlin’s Juranovic beat Moris at his near post to make it 1-1. Following the goal, the Berliners regained momentum.
From the start of the second half, both teams had chances, but after having been set up by Loïc Lapoussin, Union Saint-Gilloise’s Vertessen kept his cool in front of Ronnow to make 1-2 for the Brussels side in the 58th minute.
In the 69th minute, a penalty was awarded to Union Berlin for a handball by Christian Burgess. Knoche had his penalty initially saved by Moris, but the Union Berlin player found the ball back at his feet and slotted the ball into the net for 2-2.
Hero of the evening, Union Saint Gilloise’s Victor Boniface scored once again to make it 2-3 for the visitors, converting a tap in from a Vertessen cross in the 72nd minute.
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Just as Union Saint-Gilloise were heading towards another famous victory in the Europa League, in the last few moments, Union Berlin’s Michel takes advantage of a mistake by the Brussels defence to equalise for a third time in the 89th minute to make it 3-3.
Three goals for Union Berlin, but no victory: Union Saint-Gilloise manager Karel Geraerts will certainly rue the three goals conceded, but he also credited the superb performance of Union Berlin.
Union goalkeeper Antony Moris told RTBF after the game: "I'm proud of what we showed tonight. We were said to be in a hole for a while but we showed that there was a lot of character in this team."
"To score three goals in Berlin... not many teams can do that. There is some frustration (with the final result), but we must not forget that they are a very good team. We hold all the cards for the return match, and that's the most important thing," the Union keeper said.
RTBF contributed to this report.