1.FC Union Berlin 2-1 Alemannia Aachen
In Rocky, Sylvester Stallone worked out one of the greatest sporting fallacies and ran and ran and ran with it: namely, to succeed you must have the will to win. Technique is nothing. That he was a midget that would make a German internet provider look speedy with their responses mattered not a jot. He ran. He ran along roads with his angry Irish midget coach shouting at him. He ran though forests in the snow.
And it worked. The world champion had, apparently, not come up against anyone with "heart" before and so left the city of brotherly love with his belt intact, but with a new view on how a little bum could almost beat him through chucking tree stumps around by way of preparation.
It was actually Joe Frazier who had grown up in Philadelphia and had punched cows carcasses in a big fridge, but it is easily bypassed that he had technique too. Rocky is a terrible film, and it shouldn't be held up as a coaching example. Usually.
But it seems that Uwe Neuhaus was backed into a 'Rocky' situation while the rest of the league was on holiday in the sunshine during the winter break (Hertha was in Portugal, and BAK got to go to Turkey). His Union players had nowhere to train, the snow was all pervading and the ground staff wanted to protect their pitch.
Add to that a canceled friendly against Magdeburg and a nice Sunday stroll against a half-arsed FK Teplice and it doesn't make a great build up for what was supposed to be a battle to stay up. But the running in the forest seems to have done the trick. You don't get that with Prozone.
The cash that would have paid for a jaunt would have come from the second round of the DFB Pokal, which they didn't reach. It was money well wasted. Union have got over the raft of injuries and were happy to welcome back Michael Parensen and Torsten Mattuschka, let alone to get a fifteen minute cameo out of Santi Kolk, but this was not about some utterly ridiculous notion of heart and fight.
Union played with verve and with, well, style. Paul Thomik was a revelation in front of Christoph Menz on the right. They tormented Aachen. Union, the corresponding fixture at the start of the season were lucky to draw. Aachen swarmed all over them but it was the opposite here.
The "heart" argument goes so far, but will can still not win alone. Will will not always overcome technical deficiency. Look at Holland in the World Cup Final. One would not employ a heart surgeon because he was really keen to just get your chest open and get in there. One sometimes needs finesse.
It wasn't all fancy Dan, Brazilian-style admittedly, and Union were guilty of getting cocky in the second half. That they could break so quickly was testament to the ugly work being done behind. Sometime sportsman Dominic Peitz, looks lost with the ball at his feet, his passing is horrible, but put the ball within six feet of him and he'll have it. His part in the second goal was massive.
Göhlert had been similar. You only notice him when he makes a mistake, and there weren't many this time. Giving away the penalty was bang on. Bibiana Steinhaus was right there as she had been all game. Compared to some of the laughable standards of refereeing seen in this league she was fantastic. Sorry, was that coming on a bit Peter Niemeyer?
So what have we learned, what do we know? That Union, if they can stick to the basics and add a bit of flair, they will be back up the table in no time and needn't worry about relegation battles? Well, yeah, but also that their summer holidays from now on will be doubly ruined with all that running through the woods. Neuhaus won't let them out of the forest after this.