June 25, 2019
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Union Berlin edge closer to Bundesliga with 2-2 draw against Stuttgart

Stuttgart, Germany, May 23 (efe-epa).- Second-division club Union Berlin are a step closer to gaining promotion in the 2019-2020 Bundesliga after earning a 2-2 draw here Thursday against host Stuttgart in the first leg of the German league's relegation playoffs.

The home side squandered a one-goal lead on two occasions at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Christian Gentner put Stuttgart in front in the 42nd minute on a goal set up by Anastasios Donis, who sprinted down the right side of the field on the counterattack before finding the 33-year-old midfielder for a one-touch strike past Polish goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz.

But Union Berlin needed just one minute to score the equalizer, with Nigerian striker Suleiman Abdullahi expertly receiving a headed pass with a superb first touch and then poking the ball past Stuttgart net minder Ron-Robert Zieler while the home fans were still celebrating Gentner's goal.

Second-half substitute Mario Gomez improved the crowd's mood when he scored five minutes after the end of the intermission, charging down the middle of the field and getting off a shot that ricocheted off defender Marvin Friedrich and into the opposing goal.

Friedrich, however, was able to turn his club's misfortune into joy in the 68th minute when he bounced a header past Zieler off a corner kick to stun the home crowd once again.

Afterward, Union Berlin head coach Urs Fischer praised his team's effort.

"I thought that was a great performance from my team. If I remember on Sunday, we were down, but on Monday we already had the (Stuttgart) task in mind, so we were able to set the focus early. The team pulled along great," the manager was quoted as saying on his team's Web site.

"I think that was of decisive importance for today's game. You have seen that the team is brave, does not hide, and also in pressure situations looks for combinations to play out."

With the away goals rule in effect in this two-game relegation playoffs, Union Berlin have now put themselves on the verge of a first-ever berth in the Bundesliga, Germany's top division.

The two teams will meet again in the second leg on Monday at Stadion An der Alten Forsterei in Germany's capital.

Stuttgart is in the playoffs after finishing third to last in the 2018-2019 Bundesliga, while Union Berlin booked their place by finishing third in the 2. Bundesliga (second division).

The bottom two teams in the Bundesliga (Hannover and Nurnberg) were automatically relegated, while the top two teams in the 2. Bundesliga (Koln and Paderborn) were automatically promoted.

Stuttgart was automatically relegated at the end of the 2015-16 season but regained a spot in the first division in 2017-2018.

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