Union Berlin have been promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history after a tense scoreless draw at home to VfB Stuttgart was enough to see them win their two-legged promotion/relegation play-off on away goals on Monday.
Union started the evening with an advantage after the first leg, but the visitors almost got in front on the night and in the tie after only three minutes. Ozan Kabak, who has been nominated for the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Year award, tried to scramble home from a corner but was denied at close range by Union goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz. The home netminder was beaten six minutes later, though, when Dennis Aogo planted a free-kick from the edge of the box into the far corner. It would have been the Stuttgart left-back’s first goal for the club but it was disallowed following a video review because Nicolas Gonzalez was standing in an offside position in front of Gikiewicz and interfering with his line of sight. Aogo, Holger Badstuber, Santiago Ascacibar and Steven Zuber had strengthened the visiting line-up for this match and Stuttgart continued to dominate. Anastasios Donis twice went close – once having a header saved – before Gikiewicz was forced into a flying stop just before half-time from Zuber’s well-directed strike from range.
In need of a goal, Stuttgart turned to Mario Gomez at half-time for the second game running, with the former Germany striker replacing Gonzalez at the break. Chadrac Akolo tested Gikiewicz past the hour, but Union looked more threatening than they had in the first half. Suleiman Abdullahi twice went desperately close to getting the east Berliners in front, hitting the post with a snapshot on 64 minutes and striking the same bit of woodwork two minutes later when he slipped when through but still managed to stab the ball towards the net. Union looked comfortable until the closing stages when World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard had a vicious half-volley tipped wide by Gikiewicz – and wild celebrations followed when the final whistle blew.
Watch: Union striker Sebastian Andersson: "It's a dream"
- Union will become the 56th team to play in the Bundesliga as a result of this success. No Bundesliga 2 club had been promoted via the play-off since 2012 (Fortuna Düsseldorf against Hertha Berlin).
- Since the play-off was reintroduced to determine the final promotion/relegation position between the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, the top-flight team had retained their status on eight out of 10 occasions.
- Union have lost just one of their last 25 competitive home games (W14, D10), while Stuttgart have won only one of their last 19 on the road (D4, L14).
- The home side equalled the record for draws in Bundesliga 2 during 2018/19 (15). Only a 2-2 could have taken this tie to extra-time. Anything less would have taken the Berliners through on away goals, but anything more would have sufficed for Stuttgart.
- The last three play-off second legs had all been won 1-0 by the Bundesliga team.
- Gomez’s goal in the first leg made him the first player in history to score for two different teams in the play-off. The former Germany international finished the current campaign as Stuttgart’s top scorer on seven Bundesliga goals.
Union: Gikiewicz - Ryerson, Hübner, Friedrich (c), Reichel – Schmiedebach, Prömel - Abdullahi (Gogia 82'), Zulj (Parensen 90+2), Hartel (Mees 65') - Andersson
Unused subs: Busk, Polter, Rapp, Lenz
Out: Kroos (suspended), Schönheim (knee), Trimmel (suspended)
Coach: Urs Fischer
Stuttgart: Zieler – Pavard, Badstuber, Kabak, Aogo – Akolo, Ascacibar, Gentner (c), Zuber (Castro 69') – Donis (Didavi 60'), Gonzalez (Gomez HT)
Unused subs: Grahl, Insua, Baumgartl, Esswein
Out: Beck (knee), Thommy (ankle), Maffeo (not considered)
Coach: Nico Willig
Watch: Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger: "We're hugely disappointed"