Marvin Friedrich (2L) deflected in a shot from Stuttgart's Mario Gomez (R) before equalising for Union Berlin. — AFP Photo
BERLIN — Striker Mario Gomez criticised the Stuttgart fans after his team were held to a 2-2 draw at home to second-tier side Union Berlin in the first leg of the Bundesliga relegation play-off on Thursday.
The draw means three-time German champions Stuttgart must beat Union in the capital on Monday to avoid relegation, after finishing third from bottom in the top division.
The home fans booed their team at the final whistle after underdogs Union twice came from behind to keep their promotion dreams alive and leave Stuttgart on the brink of the drop.
"I don't like this atmosphere to be honest," said Gomez, who put Stuttgart 2-1 up in the second half, on Eurosport.
"Obviously we haven't delivered all season and the fans are letting out the emotion. Most of the crowd were behind us today, and I hope we have those fans with us in Berlin."
Having comically deflected Gomez's weak shot past his own goalkeeper earlier in the half, Union defender Marvin Friedrich headed home the away side's second equaliser 22 minutes from the end, to give the Berliners the edge with two away goals going into the second leg.
Union will be without captain Christopher Trimmel on Monday, after the Austrian picked up a 10th yellow card of the season for a second-half foul on Nicolas Gonzalez.
"I'm not sad to miss the game because I trust the guys and we have a great squad. We will give it everything on Monday," said Trimmel.
Anastasios Donis ran almost the full length of the pitch to set up Christian Gentner for Stuttgart's opener just before half-time, but Union hit back through Suleiman Abdullahi directly from the restart.
Stuttgart coach Nico Willig brought on Gomez at half-time, and the veteran striker restored the home side's lead five minutes later when he scuffed his shot in off the head of the unfortunate Friedrich.
Friedrich's redemption came 15 minutes later as he headed the visitors level again, giving them the advantage ahead of the decisive return leg at the Alte Foersterei stadium. — AFP