19th matchday: Without Bjelica suspended: Union wins against Darmstadt

After the final whistle, Nenad Bjelica clenched his hands into fists and, looking towards the sky, the Croatian grumbled visibly emotional words to himself.

19th matchday: Without Bjelica suspended: Union wins against Darmstadt

After the final whistle, Nenad Bjelica clenched his hands into fists and, looking towards the sky, the Croatian grumbled visibly emotional words to himself. The 1-0 (0-0) home win in the relegation duel on Sunday against the bottom of the Bundesliga, SV Darmstadt 98, was important for Union Berlin - but even more important for the suspended coach himself.

The Croatian reacted with corresponding relief after Benedict Hollerbach's only goal of the game (62nd minute), after nervously moving from left to right high up in the stands.

"It didn't bother me that much, I have to be honest. The coach apologized to the team, so that was the end of it," said attacker Hollerbach on DAZN when asked about possible unrest in the team due to the coach's omission: "The trivial things have to be done you can hide it." When he scored the game-winning goal after a counterattack, the 22-year-old had to bite his teeth hard "because the lactic acid was screaming in his legs."

With the victory they deserved in the end, the Berliners increased their lead over relegation place 16 to five points, which should also reduce the pressure on Bjelica for the time being. The Croatian, who is missing two more games after his eye-catching hand-wiping against Bayern Munich international Leroy Sané, was represented on the sidelines by assistant Danijel Jumic. Assistant coach Marie-Louise Eta took over media duties surrounding the game. “That was simply important after the turbulent time recently, it’s a bit of a liberation,” said 32-year-old Eta.

Union has found its home strength again after a long lull in the first half of the season. The last three league games in the Alte Försterei were won. Darmstadt remained without a win for the twelfth Bundesliga game in a row and is now six points behind Union. The competition from Cologne and Mainz is still within striking distance. They had a “pretty good away game,” said new signing Gerrit Holtmann. But coach Torsten Lieberknecht criticized: "We were too hesitant and unfortunately too complicated in front of the penalty area."

With his unsportsmanlike behavior against Sané, Bjelica caused unnecessary trouble for the Berliners during the week and weakened his own position in the club. Before the game, managing director Oliver Ruhnert avoided making a clear commitment to the Croatian, who has only been in office since the end of November. However, he clearly denied speculation that some players no longer wanted to work with the coach after the incident.

There was also good news for the Köpenick team before the game: goalkeeper Frederik Rönnow extended his contract on Sunday. The game was accompanied by renewed protests against the German Football League's investor plans.

It was a tough game on the pitch in the first half. The home side were more active, but remained imprecise, especially with the last pass. It wasn't until the end of the half that there was anything like a goal threat. Lucas Tousart headed the ball over the Darmstadt box from a good position after a corner (34').

Shortly afterwards, Kevin Behrens broke away from his opponent. The shot from the Berlin striker, who was recently unsuccessful in finishing, went way over (35'). Shortly after the restart, Hollerbach missed alone in front of Darmstadt keeper Marcel Schuhen (48th) after a bad pass from the guests.

The 22-year-old did better on his next attempt after a pass from Andras Schäfer. It was the third goal of the season for the attacker, who only really comes into his own under Bjelica. The Croatian looked relieved in the stands. Behrens missed the 2-0 in the 76th and 84th minutes.

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