European LeagueIt seems that the Federation is already making an early choice about the European winter: after a 1-2 deficit, the Federation snatched victory (3-2) in a smash position. Punish how Union also serves delicious football in Europe – with refined flavours, pepper and salt. “Now I want us to have a European victory followed also by a good match and the result in the Belgian competition,” coach Geraeerts already selected his squad for Leoben on Sunday.
Al-Ittihad is one of the Belgian teams that provides a European surplus. Remember last season there was still some doubt about whether it was a good idea for a ‘small’ league to come to Europe – wouldn’t we prefer the big, traditional teams? But those skeptics are now disappointed. Except for that disastrous night in Glasgow, EFA has always brought mature and attractive, without fear or nerves. Many players bravely fight the lion.
After three wins in four European matches, the federation can now say it has already exceeded expectations. “We can be proud of these six out of six in the Europa League,” said Teddy Teuma. The captain was the best player with an assist, a great goal and a constant supporter on the field. “Honestly, I would have forged a loss in Berlin and a home win against Malmö. Six of our six might have been unexpected for a lot of people, and there were some questions last season about what we could do in Europe, but at least we won those points and didn’t steal them. We have proven that we deserve our place in Europe.”
Teuma thinks it’s too early to say if the EU is really making a choice about the European winter. But he also knows that even the third-placed in the group has a safety net in the conference league: “We probably already have some progress on that.”
Christian Burgess, who headed the first equalizer for Union, was also not ahead with four games remaining: “There is still a lot. Braga won, which is good for us. But we have to keep getting points. Braga is a difficult step forward.”
Burgess also believes Union made many mistakes against Malmö: “I’m disappointed we gave up on those two goals. We have to stop getting into this situation. After our performance today, I don’t think Braga will be afraid of us, just respect. We deserved it, but This group is still open.”
What is certainly commendable is the resilience and energy with which the union corrected the imbalance against Malmö. Coach Geraerts started with an amazing move: Dante Vanzeir started on the bench. Reportedly, he felt his quadriceps in his last training session, and decided not to risk losing him for several weeks. Geerts explained: “Dante felt pain in his left buttock when he kicked the goal.” “We checked at half-time if he could come, but it wasn’t possible.” A little rest might not be a bad thing for Vanzier. In recent weeks he was less able to make his mark and ultimately lacked sharpness in front of goal. Eckert, who has come in really well recently, got his chance in the starting lineup.
Union had a poor start: Sessay scored a quick goal after a less aggressive defense by Burgess and van der Heyden. A wake-up call, the interaction in the union hasn’t gone well yet. Fortunately for Union, he also grabbed his first big chance: Burgess, moving forward, curled a curling ball from Touma into goal.
After that, Union apparently took matters into its own hands, with several clever outbreaks. Lenin burned Dahlin’s goalkeeper gloves with a single shot. Boniface was also in the spotlight again: always playable and dribbling hard on the ball, only his passes lacked the appropriate length. He showed how you can free yourself with a deft movement on a large handkerchief, only the Hadzikadunic can hastily turn around. Kandous already saw a goal that was disallowed for offside.
In the second half, Union pulled all the stops, but Malmö showed itself with high efficiency again in a rare encounter, completed by former Anderlecht striker Isaac Thelin. Geraerts threw additional attacking forces with Adringra and Nilsson. Union went into breaker mode with numerous opportunities. Touma returned to the hero role with an unstoppable shot to equalize. A little later, Boniface took his moment, after a double punch with Labusin. The Nigerian kicked mercilessly (3-2). Nelson missed the opportunity to 4-2: narrowly crossed the goal. Then a tired union turned to certainty and won by plunder.
“I can be very proud of what my team showed after the goals against him,” said coach Karel Gerats. “The scenario of how we get left behind wasn’t necessary, but it’s also a feature of how we react.”
Gerarts admits that Al Ittihad has risen to the top level in Europe with three wins in four European matches. “Our European level is good, but we shouldn’t underestimate the Belgian championship either. Genk does not play in Europe, but if you see their level ahead of us in the competition on Sunday… In this field I hope we can now continue our good streak in Europe to compete. After our European victory, I want to see a good race and get results in Yeoben on Sunday.”
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