Braga snatches late win at Union Berlin first Champions League home game
BERLIN (AP) — André Castro scored in the very last minute for Braga to snatch a 3-2 win in Union Berlin's first home game in the Champions League, though not at the home stadium Union fans wanted.
Sheraldo Becker scored twice Tuesday to give dominant Union a two-goal lead, but Sikou Niakaté scored before the break, Bruma equalized soon after it, and Braga substitute Castro scored from distance in the fourth minute of stoppage time to leave the German team ruing another late defeat.
Union also conceded late to lose 1-0 at Real Madrid in its tournament debut.
“It's unbelievable,” Union defender Danilho Doekhi said. “We had two good games in the Champions League, but in the end, zero points.”
Napoli was hosting Madrid in the other Group C game.
On German Unity Day, Union – a former East German club — crossed the former divide to play its first Champions League home game in what was West Berlin. An official total of 73,445 fans attended the match in Berlin’s Olympiastadion, traditionally the home of city rival Hertha Berlin.
Union’s own Stadion An der Alten Försterei in the east holds 22,000 fans and the decision to decamp to the other side of the capital gave the club the opportunity to sell more than three times as many tickets.
However, the decision was not a popular one.
Union supporters whistled when club spokesman Christian Arbeit welcomed them to Olympiastadion, then sang a chant about the team’s usual home in Köpenick. A huge banner in front of the north stand said “We need the Alte Försterei, like (we need) air to live.”
“There’s no doubt about where we’d rather be,” Arbeit acknowledged.
On Saturday, Hertha fans had displayed a banner taunting their rivals: “Only you don’t play at home. Do you still recognize yourself in the mirror?”
But most of the Union fans’ ire was directed toward UEFA, which they accused in huge banners before kickoff of prioritizing money over the sport because of its stadium infrastructure regulations.
They had further cause for anger when Robin Gosens had an early goal ruled out through VAR as Becker strayed offside, but Union’s early play was promising.
Becker finally rewarded the home team on a counterattack in the 30th minute. He fired through Brazilian goalkeeper Matheus’ legs.
Seven minutes later, Lucas Tousart headed the ball through for Becker to latch onto, take a few steps forward and fire spectacularly past Matheus for his second.
But Portuguese side Braga pulled one back four minutes later through Niakaté, who converted the rebound after Frederik Rønnow pushed away Ricardo Horta’s shot after a corner.
The visitors equalized early in the second half after another corner, when Horta laid the ball off for Bruma to unleash a fierce strike from distance inside the top right corner.
Braga was playing with more confidence until Union coach Urs Fischer sent on Kevin Volland and Aïssa Laïdouni midway through the second half. Becker was at the center of Union’s attacking play as the home team went on to miss several good chances.
When it seemed Union would have to settle for a draw, Castro had the final say.
“You ask yourself how many blows you can take,” Fischer said as the team’s losing streak stretched to six games across all competitions.
Union's fans – after getting over their initial shock following Castro's goal – sang long after the final whistle to show their unwavering support.
“The fans supported us brilliantly to the end,” Fischer said. “Of course we're disappointed we couldn't give something back. Up to 70,000 ‘Unioner’ in a stadium, you never had that before. But in the end the disappointment is there.”
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