At the halfway stage of this Europa League knockout round playoff tie, it is still honours even. A close affair was expected between Ajax and Union Berlin given the quality of the two sides, so it perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise to see the first leg end goalless. But there has to be a winner.
This season is the second consecutive campaign in which Union Berlin have participated in European competition and just the third overall. It’s also now the furthest they have been, and the German side will be hoping their European journey continues.
Placed in a Europa League group alongside Union Saint-Gilloise, Braga and Malmo, Union Berlin had their work cut out for them in qualifying for the knockout stages especially after losing their opening two matches. But the German side won their final four to finish two points clear of third-placed Braga, and only one behind group winners Union SG.
Ajax, meanwhile, were one of the eight teams to drop down from the Champions League having finished third in their group. The Dutch side were placed in a pretty tough group alongside Napoli, Liverpool and Rangers, but many will have expected them to fare better than they did. In six games, Ajax managed just two wins against Rangers, and were thrashed 6-1 by Napoli at home.
Struggling in the Eredivisie too, Ajax made the decision to sack Alfred Schreuder earlier this year and replaced him with Johnny Heitinga. It’s been a successful decision so far, with Ajax unbeaten in six games across all competitions, only failing to win in the first leg against Union Berlin.
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Union Berlin vs Ajax match stats
Last week’s game was as uneventful as many expected, going on Union Berlin’s Europa League group stage matches, with very little action. That also meant there were very few cards, with just two handed out in the first leg, both to Union Berlin.
Talking of the lack of action. There were just three shots on target in the first leg, all of which came by Union Berlin, the lowest figure of any of the Europa League knockout round playoff first legs. Union Berlin have now kept five consecutive clean sheets in the Europa League this season, with more shutouts than any other side.