RB Leipzig coast to comfortable win as Union Berlin's Bundesliga debut ends in defeat
Marcel Sabitzer inspired a ruthless RB Leipzig to a comfortable opening-day win over Union Berlin, scoring one and setting up the other three in a 4-0 triumph.
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Union Berlin 0-4 RB Leipzig
Goals: 0-1 Halstenberg (16'), 0-2 Sabitzer (31'), 0-3 Werner (42'), 0-4 Nkunku (69')
Union took their Bundesliga bow with a total of 395 games of top-flight experience spread across their starting XI, 377 of them belonging to Christian Gentner. It was perhaps to be expected, then, that their most experienced campaigner was the quickest to settle, sending a dangerous pass through for the first opening of a first ten minutes otherwise steeped in caution. Just as the home fans raised the decibel levels, Marcel Halstenberg lowered them again, curling his shot beyond Rafal Gikiewicz's reach to give Leipzig the lead with their first opportunity of the game.
Union's spirits were dampened further by a downpour which coincided with Lukas Klostermann converting from close range, but VAR came to the rescue and ruled the goal out for a handball by Yussuf Poulsen. There was no replay for Leipzig's second goal, even if Gikiewicz would have wished for a chance to have a second go at a misplaced clearance which Halstenberg intercepted to set Marcel Sabitzer up to score. Poulsen dinked an effort onto the crossbar as Leipzig flexed their muscles, and Timo Werner put all his strength behind an unstoppable shot which made it three just before the interval.
It did not look like there would be any respite for the Bundesliga debutants when Werner was put clean through on goal early in the second half, but Gikiewicz redeemed himself for his earlier error to deny the Germany international, before he prevented both Sabitzer and Poulsen from adding a fourth. Union then managed to get a foothold in the game and, attacking towards their most vociferous fans, they slowly started to grow in confidence and create openings.
Any hope they had of staging a remarkable recovery was dashed when Leipzig substitute Christopher Nkunku score with his first touch in the Bundesliga, tucking another Sabitzer assist into an open goal. Nkunku could have had a hat-trick as he struck the outside of the post and then brought a fine save out of Gikiewicz, but Leipzig could not find the fifth goal which would have taken them to the top of the Bundesliga on Matchday 1.
- Sabitzer had a direct hand in four goals (one goal, three assists) for the first time, while his goal was his seventh from outside the area, out of a total of 16 Bundesliga goals.
- Nkunku scored three minutes into his Bundesliga debut, with his first touch.
- Poulsen, who scored a career-best 15 Bundesliga goals last season, has two in three Bundesliga 2 matches against Die Eisernen.
- Nagelsmann took charge of his first Bundesliga game with Leipzig, while his Union counterpart Fischer – a two-time Swiss champion – made his debut in the German top flight.
- Union became the third promoted team to concede three in just one half on their Bundesliga debut, after TeBe Berlin in 1974 and Freiburg in 1993.
Union: Gikiewicz – Trimmel (c), Friedrich, Schlotterbeck, Lenz – Andrich, Gentner (Ujah 46'), Prömel, Bülter – Abdullahi (Becker 58'), Andersson (Polter 69')
Unused subs: Nicolas, Subotic, Mees, Reichel, Schmiedebach, Ingvartsen
Coach: Urs Fischer
Leipzig: Gulacsi – Konate, Orban (c), Mukiele – Klostermann, Demme (Laimer 62'), Kampl (Forsberg 73'), Halstenberg – Sabitzer – Poulsen, Werner (Nkunku 65')
Unused subs: Mvogo, Saracchi, Haidara, Ilsanker, Cunha, Ampadu
Out: Adams (groin), Wolf (ankle), Upamecano (knee)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
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