Slavia clinch draw to eliminate Union from UEFA Europa Conference League

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BERLIN, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Max Kruse's equalizer wasn't enough as Slavia Praha secured a 1-1 draw on the road to knockout uninspired Union Berlin from UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday.

Union needed a win on home soil to book its berth for the next round hence the visitors took the reins from the kick-off and pressed Slavia into defense.

Although Berlin controlled possession in the opening stages they had to wait until the 18th minute to create its first-half chance when Taiwo Awoniyi assisted Max Kruse, who pulled over the target from the edge of the box.

Slavia staged a well-positioned defense and was able to keep the uninspired hosts at bay.

As the match progressed, Slavia focussed on fast breaks and almost caught Union flat-footed as Tomas Holes rattled the woodwork in the 34th minute.

The "Eisernen" caught a bright start as Awoniyi collected a loose ball inside the box before his promising shot got blocked by his teammate three minutes into the second half.

The visitors though, opened the scoring against the run of the game in the 50th minute when Timo Baumgartl's misplaced pass allowed Slavia's Ivan Schranz to drill the ball past Union goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow into the top left corner.

Union needed now two goals and tried to respond but was lucky enough that Peter Olayinka hit the right post with only Ronnow to beat in the 55th minute.

The hosts eventually restored parity in the 64th minute when Kruse hammered a flicked-on corner kick from 14 meters past Slavia custodian Ales Mandous.

Urs Fischer's men pressed for the second goal but for all that Union lacked in accuracy and tried its luck with long-range efforts. Slavia defense stood firm and protected the draw as the visitors had no problems clearing all long balls from Union in the closing stages.

With the result, Union crashed out of Europa Conference League after finishing third in Group E while Slavia progressed into the next round after defending its second place in the table.

"We focussed for too long on long balls instead of playing our way through the defense. We send long balls into Slavia's territory instead of playing football. We deserved to get eliminated as we only reaped two wins from six games, which is too little," Union veteran striker Max Kruse said.

"I am of course disappointed. We didn't find a solution to overcome Slavia's defense and played a lot of long balls. The deficit against the run of the play didn't help either. My team showed great will, but they weren't dangerous enough," Union head coach Urs Fischer said. Enditem

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