Union Berlin have never been about individuals, always preferring to focus on the collective and the team, but a hero has emerged at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei in Taiwo Awoniyi, who took centre stage in the derby win over Hertha Berlin.
“I don’t want to speak about individuals because I think today the whole team was really convincing and had a good game,” Union coach Urs Fischer said after the 2-0 win, but he did go on to reference his main striker: “Taiwo is on hand to score when he’s supplied.”
And that was evident once again in the eighth minute of the fifth Bundesliga derby between Die Eisernen and the Old Lady. With a ball into the middle not dealt with by the Hertha defence, the Nigerian latched onto it and kept his cool to slot his shot past Alexander Schwolow and set Union on course for their biggest top-flight victory over their city rivals.
Watch: Highlights of the 2-0 derby win
It’s just the latest highlight in the 24-year-old’s season and also his Union career, having found a home at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei following a previously nomadic existence that included seven loan moves since joining Liverpool in 2015.
Awoniyi has now settled in Berlin after his permanent move in the summer and even become the club’s record goalscorer in the Bundesliga, overtaking Max Kruse onto 13. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s a monumental amount for a club only in their third top-flight campaign.
Of his 13 goals in 33 league games for Union, eight have come in only 12 appearances this season, putting him behind only Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland in the standings. His total across all competitions in 2021/22 is 13 from 20, including four in six in Europe.
His second derby goal also puts him among the top scorers in this fixture in the Bundesliga, cementing his place in the history of this multi-layered derby that is fast becoming one of Germany’s biggest games.
“We’re delighted it’s working out with Taiwo like we’d all hoped,” said Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert. “It’s top how the boy is doing.”
Die Eisernen’s biggest derby win unsurprisingly sparked questions as to which team is the number one in Berlin, but Awoniyi’s arrival at the Alte Försterei has coincided with the greatest period in Union’s history.
Having qualified for Europe via the league for the first time ever, they have been ahead of Hertha in the standings since October 2020 and also picked up 22 points more than the Old Lady since their Bundesliga promotion in 2019.
Watch: Awoniyi: “We took our chances”
Awoniyi wasn’t eager to talk about himself after the game, instead preferring to stick to the club principle of praising the team: “It’s a good feeling to know that we won the first Berlin derby of the season. I think for Union, everyone is important.
“It doesn’t matter who scores. For me, I score so that the team can be successful. Once we are successful, I think I’m happy and I’m glad about that.”
The unassuming derby hero and now record goalscorer for his club in the Bundesliga. Awoniyi has proven such a big addition at Union.