BERLIN ( Associated Press) – It was the day they’ve been waiting for.
Union Berlin and its supporters celebrated the end of coronavirus restrictions with a 1-0 win over Cologne in a Bundesliga game played in front of a 22,012-capacity crowd on Friday.
Taiwo Awoniyi’s 12th league goal of the season helped Union move to seventh place with six games remaining of the season.
But for Union’s ardent fans, she was just the cherry on top.
Even the militants who boycotted the club’s last game in a full stadium – a 2–0 win over Hertha Berlin on 20 November – returned. Hardline supporters leave the derby to protest the wearing of masks and other restrictions to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection. Germany was going through its fourth wave at the time and only fans who showed proof of vaccination or recovery were allowed to participate. No alcohol is served at the Derby.
All those precautions were terminated on Friday, the day almost all coronavirus restrictions were lifted in Berlin despite the country’s high rate of infection.
Supporters, both Union and Cologne, marked the occasion by lighting flares before the game. The match itself failed to live up to the display of pyrotechnics as both the teams canceled each other in an uphill battle.
A mistake by Jonas Hector led to this decision. The Cologne captain fired the ball across his own goal but apparently failed to see Avonii, who gratefully accepted the pass and overtook goalkeeper Marvin Schwabe in the 49th minute.
This helped Union end their three-game run without a win.
Union coach Urs Fischer said of the return of fans and his own team’s 41 points, “It probably doesn’t get any better.” The union’s initial goal was to survive its third season in the Bundesliga. Now it can again challenge for European qualification.
Cologne were without top scorer Anthony Modest due to illness.
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