20th matchday: RB Leipzig stops crisis: win against Union Berlin

RB Leipzig has ended its sporting crisis with the return of veterans Peter Gulacsi and Willi Orban and dealt Union Berlin a new setback without coach Nenad Bjelica, who is still missing due to suspension.

20th matchday: RB Leipzig stops crisis: win against Union Berlin

RB Leipzig has ended its sporting crisis with the return of veterans Peter Gulacsi and Willi Orban and dealt Union Berlin a new setback without coach Nenad Bjelica, who is still missing due to suspension.

Cup winners Leipzig won 2-0 (1-0) and achieved their first win of 2024 after three defeats in a row. "It wasn't an easy phase. But we know what we can do," said Orban.

This meant that the Saxons reduced the gap to Borussia Dortmund in fourth place in the Bundesliga to one point. Lois Openda (11th minute) gave RB the lead in front of 44,032 spectators, Benjamin Sesko (48th) increased. Union captain Christopher Trimmel (73rd) had to leave the field with a red card after a tough challenge against David Raum.

For the Berliners, it was the second game without Bjelica, who was suspended for three games after his handwipe against Munich's Leroy Sané. The Iron Men, who recently got seven points from four games, remain stuck in 15th place with one game less.

“The bottom line is that we don’t need to talk about it, the defeat is deserved,” said Kevin Vogt on DAZN. On Wednesday the Berliners face an important relegation duel against their direct rivals Mainz 05. “That’s where it counts, we have to join forces now,” demanded goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow. "Today was a bonus game, Wednesday counts."

Rose relies on “stability and charisma”

After the 2:5 debacle in Stuttgart and the winless streak of four games, Rose made five changes and relied on "stability and charisma" with the veterans Gulacsi and Orban. The Hungarian national goalkeeper was in the starting line-up for the first time in 491 days, while his national team colleague Orban was in the starting line-up after a 154-day injury break.

“We already have a lot of young players, so you need a bit of rest. Those are the qualities we have,” said Orban. Gulacsi added: "This is my stadium. Being back on the pitch in the Bundesliga is of course something special for me."

In the constant rain, the Saxons immediately took control of the game, but the Eisernen offered little opportunity to get through with their compact five-man chain. This was often only possible with short passing games and - as Rose had demanded - "with flashes of inspiration". Like Openda, who hammered an uncleared ball almost from the baseline from an acute angle into the far corner over Schwolow, who was replacing the ill Frederik Rönnow.

Game briefly interrupted due to protests

Then, as in other stadiums at the weekend, the match had to be briefly interrupted in the 26th minute due to fans' protests against the German Football League (DFL) investor deal. Small balls or objects that resembled marbles or bouncy balls were thrown onto the lawn from the Union fan block. After the field was cleared, referee Marco Fritz continued the game.

Towards the end of the first half, Union got into the game better. Winter newcomer Yorbe Vertessen (31st) headed a ball harmlessly onto the goal on his debut - no problem for Gulacsi. On the other side, Schwolow brilliantly fished a header from Sesko (45.2) off the line after a corner from space.

Sesko increases to 2-0

After the change, RB followed up. Raum curled a free kick directly onto the head of Sesko, who was running in at the near post, making it 2-0. Schwolow (53') then parried a long-range shot from Dani Olmo before being too late for Sesko's header (57'). However, the hit was withdrawn after checking by the video assistant.

After a good hour, Union did more for the offense and got into good positions up to the penalty area, but the accuracy of the last pass was lacking - or RB defended well. Although defense chief Orban was substituted in the 70th minute, RB managed its first clean sheet since October 28, 2023 in a 6-0 win against Cologne.

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