Union Berlin entered Tuesday’s game following eight successive defeats, with die Eisernen keen to steal at least a point against favourites Napoli – and hopefully turn around their current run of form. Both teams would be viewing this game as a must-win, as a loss for Union would almost certainly put them out of contention for the knockout rounds, while almost guaranteeing Napoli’s spot in the knockouts.
FCU: Rønnow; Leite, Doekhi, Knoche; Gosens, Haberer, Khedira, Aaronson, Trimmel; Fofana, Becker
NAP: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Natan, Mario Rui; Cajuste, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Raspadori, Kvaratskhelia
The game started well for Union Berlin, who created a few early chances from some well-worked set-pieces. In possession, Napoli sat back with the ball and didn’t have a shot on goal until almost the 15th minute.
From this point, Napoli looked slightly more positive in possession, but they failed to convert any of their opportunities into goals. Union played some impressive football on the counterattack, eventually putting the ball in the net in the 24th minute, but Fofana was caught offside in the build-up. Neither team managed to break the deadlock in the first half, though Union had perhaps surprisingly been the team who had looked closest to scoring prior to the break.
Kvaratskhelia created an impressive opportunity early in the second period, but the chance was squandered by a necessary defensive block. Union also had a few chances which couldn’t be converted, and both teams looked like scoring on numerous occasions.
Napoli finally managed in the 65th minute, after an impressive run from Kvaratskhelia who laid it off to Raspadori. The striker drove it into the near corner with his left foot, leaving Union’s Rønnow hopeless.Embed from Getty Images
Union soon changed to a more attacking system, replacing a defender with an extra striker in the line-up. In the 80th minute this attacking focus almost paid off, when a header from Robin Knoche only narrowly went wide.
Napoli held onto their lead going into the final few minutes of the ninety, but Union looked far from defeated and were creating some impressive chances. The final few minutes were nothing but one-way traffic in favour of Union Berlin; however in the end it wasn’t enough, and Napoli escaped the game with a 1-0 win.
The victors, Napoli, will certainly be relieved to have secured the win, as it places them three points in front of Braga in Group C. Conversely, Union Berlin sit bottom having lost their first three fixtures, and they have now lost nine straight across all competitions. Union need to find a way to turn their season around before the two sides meet again on the 8th of November, in the fourth round of the group stage.