Classic Union: It’s never done. The inhabitants of Brussels made up for a 1-3 deficit against Braga and are already certain of European football after the winter. What a team, what a turnaround, what a night.
Union seemed defeated at the break – the 1-3 deficit was heavy, every mistake was paid in cash – but the resilience of Brussels residents is gradually becoming legendary: they refuse to accept a defeat even at 0-10. Karel Geraerts did not want to rely solely on that fighting spirit, he switched systems. The familiar 3-5-2 was briefly overhauled, perhaps also because Burgess could not continue, Union switched to a 4-3-3. Geraerts is only forty, but he dares. Good coach.
It was remarkable how Union, with an unleashed Lapoussin at left back, suddenly regained control of the game: the tactical adjustment paid off. Union was also helped by the quick connection goal: right winger Vanzeir extended a sharp corner kick from captain Teuma past goalkeeper Matheus. Den Dreef suddenly started to believe in it again, the supporters joined the team in a loud and impressive way, which only fueled the spirit and faith. Just past the hour, that eagerness paid off: Lapoussin curled a nice cross from his left, in front of the goal Boniface – strong boy who talks to journalists in a whisper – was the ruler in the air: 3-3. What. A. turnaround.
The contrast with the first half was great. Then Union was always one step too late and there were individual mistakes. At the 0-1, keeper Moris – still phenomenal in Braga – was not free, in the run-up to the 1-2 Kandouss made a superfluous foul, at the 1-3 Burgess stepped out injudiciously. Each time Vitinha scored – a hat trick. In between, Boniface had taken care of the 1-1 after a great collective attack. The Nigerian has already made Undav forget, and for that you have to be able to do something.
Vanzeir had a striking role. Before half time he barely touched a ball, it was running in thin air. After the conversion, Vanzeir became a kind of right winger – albeit with the freedom to come in – and the Limburger came out excellent on the flank. The Portuguese didn’t know where they were, their coach Artur Jorge made circular movements with their hands, hoping to crank the machine again, but Union just kept going. Adingra dropped the 4-3.
It’s crazy how flexible the Unionists are tactically: once the tie was on the board, Geraerts went 3-5-2 again, still with the intention of going up and over. That is why Gustav Nilsson came between the lines. The Swede was the killer of his in Portugal one week ago and now also slipped through the offside trap, but the visitors were back just in time to deprive Nilsson of a new hero role.
The driving force at Union is Bart Nieuwkoop – he narrowly beats Teuma. The Dutchman is like a Duracell rabbit: his batteries last longer. What makes him even more valuable is that Nieuwkoop also has good feet.
As much as Union wanted it, the ultimate climax – a victory – never came. It did not alter the fact that the supporters once again experienced a top evening: they had a great time. Just like the people in front of television: “Great to watch”, our chef Ludo Vandewalle app. The good thing is that there is now also a mathematical continuation of the European adventure: Union is at least third, regardless of the result of the match between Union Berlin and Malmö later in the evening. It’s well deserved.