Union Berlin remain just outside the European places in the Bundesliga after being held to a 1-1 home draw by neighbours Hertha Berlin in the capital-city derby on Sunday.
Hertha are unbeaten in the last three derbies, after Dodi Lukebakio’s first-half penalty cancelled out a superb opening goal by Union midfielder Robert Andrich with 10 minutes played.
The point leaves Union seventh, four points from the European places, while Pal Dardai’s Hertha are just two points clear of the relegation zone.
This was only the fourth Berlin derby between the clubs in Germany’s top flight.
Even with the match played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Union fans outside made their presence felt by firing fireworks over the stadium for the opening three minutes.
Union took an early lead when Andrich let fly from 20 yards out and smashed the ball into the net.
It was a sweet moment for Andrich, who was sent off early in the previous derby last December when Hertha came from behind to win 3-1.
Tempers flared when Hertha’s French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi and Grischa Proemel of Union were both booked after a heated clash.
Hertha drew level when Union defender Marvin Friedrich clipped the ankle of Guendouzi in the area and Lukebakio fired home the resulting penalty in the 35th minute.
The visitors finished the stronger as Union barely managed a shot on goal in the second half.
Earlier, VfB Stuttgart edged towards the European spots themselves with a 1-0 home win over Werder Bremen thanks to a late Ludwig Augustinsson own goal.
Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart broke the deadlock nine minutes from time when winger Borna Sosa’s cross was turned into his own net by Bremen defender Augustinsson.
The hosts are now unbeaten in their last six home league games and eighth in the table, level with Union on 39 points.
Stuttgart can trim the gap next Saturday when they host fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund, who they thrashed 5-1 in a stunning away performance last December.
Bremen’s third straight defeat leaves them 13th in the table and seven points above the relegation places.
The visitors’ best chance came when striker Niclas Fuellkrug fired just over the bar early in the second half.
Bremen midfielder Maximilian Eggestein is suspended for next week’s league game at home to second-placed RB Leipzig after earning his fifth yellow card of the season.
Florian Kohfeldt’s Bremen will play for a German Cup semi-final place on Wednesday in a rearranged last-eight clash at second-division Jahn Regensburg.