Union Berlin are closing in on securing their place in the Bundesliga for next season after goals from Marvin Friedrich and Christian Gentner took the Bundesliga debutants past Cologne and seven points clear of the relegation play-off spot with three games to play.
Both sides came into this game knowing that their place in the Bundesliga next season should be safe, bar any late collapse in the final four games. Nevertheless, every game is there to be won and it was Union showing their desire to come out victorious early on, Marcus Ingvartsen shooting wide across goal inside the opening five minutes. Playing a four-man defence for the very first time this season, Urs Fischer's side had Grischa Prömel sat in front of the backline, but he couldn't stop Rafael Czichos forcing a save from Rafal Gikiewicz from a Cologne set piece on 24 minutes. On the half-hour mark, Union thought they had a penalty after a handball from Czichos in the box – but a check from Video-Assist allowed referee Martin Petersen to overturn his decision. The away side made sure they wouldn't end the first half empty-handed, however, and opened the scoring on 39 minutes through their most common source. Christopher Trimmel curled in a trademark corner and Friedrich rose superbly to power a header past Timo Horn from close range, the capital club's 16th goal from dead-ball situations this season, sending them ahead into the break.
Cologne made a much better start to the second half. Anthony Modeste – with three goals in his last four games, two of those from the bench – came on at the break and headed over the bar from Toni Leistner's cross inside the first five minutes of the second half. Minutes later and Florian Kainz's teasing ball in from the left was almost touched in by Jhon Cordoba but bounced wide instead. Kainz had the next big chance himself on 60 minutes, forcing a strong save from Gikiewicz at his near post. But despite their efforts, it was Union who found the game’s next goal. Trimmel's corner was cleared but lobbed towards the back post again by Marius Bülter where Gentner had brilliantly slipped through the offside trap to control with his chest before firing past Horn. Cologne did get a goal in added time with Mark Uth playing Cordoba in on goal to finish under Gikiewicz, but Union survived the late pressure to draw level on points with their hosts.
- Cologne had scored at least once in each of their last 16 Bundesliga games - the last game without a goal for the Billy Goats also coming against Union in the reverse fixture in Berlin.
- Union secured their first win in eight games, ending their longest run without victory in their debut top-flight season.
- Trimmel has assisted eight goals from set pieces this season - a Europe-wide best and two more than Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold.
- Gentner has scored more goals against Cologne (six) than against any other side in the Bundesliga. The Union midfielder is also unbeaten in eight games at Cologne (four wins, four draws).
- Die Eisernen are undefeated against Cologne under Fischer, the Swiss overseeing three wins and a draw with an aggregate scored of 7-1.
- Cordoba is Cologne's top scorer with 13 goals this season.
Watch: Marvin Friedrich talks up Christopher Trimmel's set-piece prowess
Cologne: Horn – Ehizibue (Schindler 63'), Bornauw, Czichos, Schmitz (Leistner 46') - Skhiri (Höger 84'), Hector (c) – Drexler (Modeste 46'), Uth, Kainz (Rexhbecaj 70') - Cordoba
Unused subs: Kessler, Clemens, Lemperle
Out: Hauptmann (groin), Jakobs (muscular), Mere (not included), Risse (knee), Terodde (knee), Thielmann (muscular)
Coach: Markus Gisdol
Union: Gikiewicz - Trimmel (c), Friedrich, Schlotterbeck, Reichel (Hübner 71') – Prömel – Ingvartsen (Mees 89'), Malli (Kroos 63'), Gentner, Bülter – Andersson (Ujah 63')
Unused subs: Nicolas, Subotic, Flecker, Abdullahi, Schmiedebach
Out: Andrich (suspended), Becker (thigh), Gogia (match fitness), Lenz (muscular), Polter (not included), Ryerson (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer