AAt Berlin airport, the 1. FC Union players are now regulars, traveling between the escalator and the runway every week. Most recently, their expressions upon arrival revealed little that was pleasant after the company outings, but on Thursday it was different. Then everyone, players and their entourage, returned with happy faces. As happy as you can be if you were able to stop a historical negative series.
The Berliners had lost twelve games in a row in all competitions until a 1-1 draw in Naples on Wednesday evening. Anyway. In the Champions League, the result gave the overall situation a bittersweet taste because, despite all the joy at avoiding defeat, it was tantamount to elimination from the competition. But after the first three defeats, nobody expected them to progress.
“I feel good and am happy that we are not left empty-handed today. It is incredibly important for the mind that we converted the effort we put in into winning a point this time,” said Rani Khedira. The effort and the benefit had been one thing in the past few weeks; the two were in a blatant disproportion to each other. A lack of luck was one thing, home-made problems were another.
“Team was tireless today”
The more games Union lost, the more it became apparent that the team no longer had the unity of last season. The distortions became particularly obvious in the first leg, when the disappointed David Fofana refused to shake coach Urs Fischer’s hand after being substituted.
In the following conversation, the attacker apparently showed less insight than he had hoped, and the club responded by banning him for two games. The internal ban ended last weekend, and it can be seen as a curious coincidence that Fofana, of all people, played a decisive role in stopping the fatal run. His goal to equalize shortly after the break also meant the final score.
Matteo Politano had given the Italian champions the lead before the break. Neapels Union survived the pressure phase towards the end, unlike in the games against Real Madrid and Sporting Braga, when the Berliners lost each time by conceding a goal at the last moment, this time without any damage. “The team was tireless today and finally rewarded themselves for a great performance. “We certainly had the luck we needed today, but when I see what we put in and how we tried to protect our goal, it was very clear that we really wanted to score,” said coach Fischer.
Eleven Germans arrested
The draw was at least as important for him as it was for the players. With each defeat, the public discussion about his person became louder, and the expressions of loyalty from those in charge did not change that. Externally, the club has clearly committed itself to Fischer, but in the event of another defeat on Sunday at league leaders Bayer Leverkusen, the decision-makers are likely to consult again. Afterwards there is an international break and with it the opportunity to take a breather for the first time in four weeks. Until then, Union had had to play competitive games every three days.
Naples is not good as a new beginning; the performance at the foot of Vesuvius was too shaky and too nerve-wracking. Not just for the players. Arrests had already been made in the run-up to the game following clashes between fans of both clubs. According to authorities, eleven Germans were arrested. The heated atmosphere moved from the street to the stadium, where Naples supporters threw or fired at the Berliners with firecrackers and flares.
The detonations could be heard repeatedly, especially at the beginning of the game. When asked about the firecrackers being thrown, Fischer said: “I also flinched at one or two of them because you are not prepared for such situations.” A sentence that can involuntarily be applied to the sporting situation. The Berliners weren’t really prepared for this, but in Naples the players showed that they were willing to put all the defeats behind them.
The post first appeared on www.faz.net