Joel Pohjanpalo scored a second-half hat-trick as Union Berlin overcame Werder Bremen 3-1 to boost their hopes of a top-six finish, while sinking their visitors ever deeper into the relegation mire.
Recent wins for Arminia Bielefeld and Cologne, coupled with Bremen’s six-game losing run in the Bundesliga prior to kick-off, had thrust Florian Kohfeldt's side into the thick of the battle against the drop. Yet recent results have taken their toll on the team’s confidence and it was Union, still with an outside chance of qualifying for Europe, who were the better side in the first half. They dominated in almost every area, enjoying more possession, completing more passes, winning more tackles and having more efforts on goal, but they struggled to create clear chances against deep-lying opposition. The best opportunity fell to Robert Andrich following a corner, but his fiercely struck first-time shot was blocked in a crowded box before it reached the Werder goal. Milot Rashica had the visitors’ only opening of note, but his low shot from 16 yards was comfortably saved by Andreas Luthe.
The hosts eventually got the lead their superiority deserved early in the second half when a corner from the right was flicked on to the back post, where the unmarked Pohjanpalo was lurking to prod over the line from close range. The Finnish striker fired in a second just three minutes later when he latched onto Petar Musa’s pass in the right-hand side of the penalty area and squeezed a low shot past Jiri Pavlenka and into the far corner. The 26-year-old, nicknamed 'Danger', showed his predatory instincts once again in the 67th minute when he collected another ball into the box from Musa, this time on the left, before angling a precise shot into the corner. It was no less than Union deserved and although Bremen pulled a goal back through Theodor Gebre Selassie in the closing stages, it was too little too late for the visitors, who are now just four points above the automatic relegation spots - although they have played three games more than 17th-placed Hertha Berlin.
- Pohjanpalo scored for the first time in 2021 and for the first time in the starting XI; his first nine Bundesliga goals were all as a substitute.
- The 26-year-old netted his first hat-trick for Union and second in the Bundesliga overall. His first was for Bayer Leverkusen in a 3-1 win over Hamburg on 10 September 2016.
- In fact, it was the first time a Union player has ever scored a hat-trick in Germany's top flight.
- Gebre Selassie's goal was his third this season.
- Union's only defeat at the hands of Werder came in their sole previous meeting at the An der Alten Försterei last season. They have won each of the other two matches in Bremen.
- Werder have been beaten in all seven of their most recent Bundesliga outings, conceding 18 times in the process at an average of 2.57 goals per game.
Watch: Pohjanpalo: "I've found my self-confidence again"
Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck - Ryerson (Trimmel 90'+1), Gentner (Griesbeck 78'), Andrich, Lenz - Ingvartsen (Prömel 72'), Kruse (Musa 46') - Pohjanpalo (Teuchert 72')
Unused subs: Karius, Bülter, Endo, Hübner
Out: Awoniyi (thigh), Becker (ankle), Dajaku (foot), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer
Bremen: Pavlenka - Groß, Moisander (c), Friedl (Dinkci 63') - Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Möhwald (Bargfrede 64'), Augustinsson - Sargent (Osako 88'), Rashica - Füllkrug (Selke 63')
Unused subs: Zetterer, Agu, Schmid, Erras, Mbom
Out: Bittencourt (ankle), Plogmann (knee), Toprak (calf), Veljkovic (broken nose), Woltemade (knee)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt