Max Kruse scored a stoppage-time winner to seal a 2-1 victory for Union Berlin over RB Leipzig on Matchday 34, thereby sealing a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League next season and spoiling Julian Nagelsmann’s last game in charge of Die Roten Bullen.
The Bayern Munich-bound Leipzig tactician made six changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Wolfsburg last time out, and his charges initially struggled to find their rhythm in a full-blooded encounter in the German capital. Union even had the first chance of the game when Kruse attempted an audacious lob from 40 yards out, only to see his effort bounce narrowly wide. Petar Musa later hit the outside of the post as the hosts threatened on occasion, needing a win to finish seventh. At the other end, they limited Leipzig to speculative shots from distance – Marcel Sabitzer firing off target a couple of times, while Justin Kluivert was denied by an outstanding recovery tackle from Marvin Friedrich.
Nagelsmann brought on Yussuf Poulsen and Christopher Nkunku early in the second half as he looked to shake up his attack, and the changes paid off instantly as the latter teed up Kluivert, who dribbled around onrushing goalkeeper Andreas Luthe to pass into the empty net. Their lead didn’t last long though and Union were back on level terms 12 minutes later when Friedrich connected with Christopher Trimmel’s corner to fire in a powerful volley. Leipzig almost snatched a late winner, with Luthe thwarting Sabitzer, Poulsen and Lukas Klostermann in quick succession, but there was late drama as Kruse snuck into the Leipzig area in stoppage time to meet Sheraldo Becker's cross, heading home to secure three vital points that booked their spot in the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League next season.
- Kluivert scored his third goal of the season, and second in as many games.
- Friedrich netted for the fifth time in 2020/21, pulling him level with Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels as the league's top scoring defender.
- Union were promoted to the Bundesliga 18 years after playing in UEFA competition for the first time.
- Nagelsmann has overseen 94 matches as Leipzig coach, including 68 in the Bundesliga (W37, D20, L11).
- Sabitzer is Leipzig's top Bundesliga scorer this season with eight goals. He needs one more to match his personal best of 2019/20.
- Upamecano has made 112 Bundesliga appearances since joining Leipzig at the age of 17.
Watch: Kruse: "It's huge for the club!"
Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck - Trimmel (c), Gentner (Endo 64'), Ryerson (Bülter 82'), Lenz (Becker 82') - Ingvartsen (Teuchert 64') - Musa (Awoniyi 58'), Kruse
Unused subs: Karius, Gogia, Gießelmann, Griesbeck
Out: Andrich (suspended), Busk (muscular), Dajaku (foot), Hübner (muscular), Pohjanpalo (knock), Prömel (muscular), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer
Leipzig: Martinez – Klostermann (Mukiele 85'), Upamecano, Orban - Haidara, Sabitzer (c), Kampl (Sörloth 85'), Halstenberg – Hwang (Nkunku 54'), Kluivert (Laimer 68') - Forsberg (Poulsen 54')
Unused subs: Tschauner, Konate, Raebiger, Henrichs
Out: Adams (back), Angelino (thigh), Gulacsi (rested), Olmo (shin), Samardzic (knee), Szoboszlai (groin)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann