Union Berlin was unable to break the new Schalke barrier and missed the leap to the top of the Bundesliga table.
The Irons had to be satisfied with a 0-0 draw against the defensively stable tail light and travel to the top game at FC Bayern Munich next Sunday as the pursuers with the same number of points. One day before the 57th birthday of coach Urs Fischer, the Irons lacked the merciless effectiveness they have shown again and again against the Royal Blues in front of 22,012 spectators in the sold-out stadium at the Alte Försterei.
Schalke could not significantly improve their starting position in the relegation battle due to the fourth zero in a row. Relegation rank 16 is still six points away. Two series continued with the draw: Schalke have now been without an away win for 38 games, Union have been undefeated at home in the league for more than a year and now 16 games.
Before the showdown with Bayern, the Irons on Thursday against Ajax Amsterdam on Thursday (8:45 p.m. / RTL) are about getting into the round of 16 of the Europa League. RB Leipzig, twice Amsterdam and then next Sunday Bayern. In this triad of the very highest football celebrities, Schalke at the bottom had literally crept into the Union appointment calendar as a significantly less potent opponent. So how do you keep motivation and focus high? That was the task for Fischer.
Fischer with five changes in the starting XI
The Swiss approached the solution in two ways. Talking the opponent down, of course, Fischer always does that - and a good rotation. The latter helped defender Timo Baumgartl score his first Bundesliga minutes of the year. Top joker Sven Michel was allowed to play in the starting XI instead of Sheraldo Becker for the first time this season. There were a total of five changes to the 0-0 draw in Amsterdam on Thursday. Fischer had hoped for freshness in the mind and on the pitch.
A Union secret of success is the incredible consistency in the broad squad. They don't even want to try changing tactics in Berlin-Köpenick. No matter who the opponent is. And so the spectators in the stadium at the Alte Försterei saw exactly the same football as always. Wait, check. Not necessarily beautiful, but so solid that the competition has long since gotten used to the iron at the top of the tableau.
Schalke coach Thomas Reis had finally hoped for more effectiveness on the offensive after the three zero points that had helped to calm things down. Few chances to score are to be expected against Union. In fact, there wasn't a single one in the first half. So it couldn't work with the effectiveness either. Union also held back. Danilho Doekhi (23') got a shot from a free-kick cross. Rani Khedira (39th) tried it very tentatively from a distance.
The zero number helped neither Union nor Schalke. So both took more risks after the break. The result was more presence in the penalty area - and Schalke even more active. But there was no greater danger for the Union gate. Fischer also brought his top strikers Becker and Jordan Siebatcheu. The otherwise so typical lucky punch didn't work this time.