Don’t call it luck! 1. FC Köln use superior game plan & execution to beat Schalke

Thoughts on the 1. FC Köln 0:3 victory in Gelsenkirchen over FC Schalke 04:

How We Got There and What it Means

This match, more than any other so far this season, looked like the result of a distinctly familiar game plan executed at a high level.

The effzeh set themselves defensively and invited Schalke to seek a way through to Timo Horn’s goal, while being incredibly selective and patient (at times, it felt too selective and patient, to be honest) with using possession to launch a counterattack.

Schalke had the ball for much of the first half, but it was the effzeh with the superior number of quality chances and a 0:1 lead taken just before halftime with Leonardo Bittencourt making the pass to set-up Anthony Modeste’s first goal that was delivered through neither a header nor a penalty kick.

Upon resumption of play, possession tilted further in Schalke’s favor, and the home side even managed a few decent chances in the second half, but it was again the visitors being quite economical with their few attacking situations.

Pawel Olkowski made a great individual effort to fight through traffic and send a pass to Yannick Gerhardt, who sent two defenders the wrong way to clear a path along which to send the 0:2 past Ralf Fährmann and all but secure the three points for Köln in the 79th minute.

Six minutes later, newly substituted Simon Zoller sent one last “goodbye” to the Schalke fans fleeing the stadium early, recovering a slightly under-hit Kevin Vogt pass and finishing with a striker’s quality to provide the final margin of victory.

The win gives everyone a nice feeling heading into the international break after a week full of apprehension over the sub-par effort in Berlin and under-appreciated result at home to Ingolstadt. In addition to spending an extra week coming off a victory, the Billy Goats sit fifth in the table, above both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, and enjoy a nine-point lead on 16th place, currently occupied by FC Augsburg and their five points.

Stock Watch

Rising – Pawel Olkowski

Oh, hi pre-injury Pawel Olkowski form! We’ve missed you a lot!

Okay, maybe that’s a bit much for Olkowski’s return to action after a one-match break from playing, but Sunday saw the right back’s best performance of the season.

It should be noted that he still conceded a bit too much time and space to Franco Di Santo at one moment that allowed the Schalke striker set himself to send a ball to Leroy Sane on the other side of Jonas Hector, at which point the son of Souleyman drilled a volley that called Super Timo into action to keep the game scoreless just a few minutes before Köln could get that decisive first goal of the match.

But unlike the match at Hertha BSC, it was a rare occurrence that there was too much space available to Schalke on their left flank.

Additionally, Olkowski maintained his confidence in his ability to supplement the offensive attack. He absolutely schooled Dennis Aogo, Pierre-Emile Højberg, and Johannes Geis in cutting into the Schalke box and the sending the ball along to Yannick Gerhardt for the 0:2. It was a thing of beauty.

I’ll want to see more before I declare the man fully rehabilitated, but his response to what all have perceived as a “thinking break” seems to have been precisely what coach Peter Stöger would have wanted.

Nice work, Pawel.

Rising – Timo Horn

Can he still be rising in esteem?

Apparently, he can!

What a game from Timo Horn. He made a few outstanding saves on his way to the clean sheet that makes the final result all the more stunning. Schalke hadn’t necessarily been an offensive dynamo during their recent run of wins, but they definitely showed themselves to be dangerous. His diving stops of the Sane shot and a Johannes Geis direct free kick attempt are 100% highlight worthy, even when the entire German football world is busy fretting over Bayern Munich’s dismantling of Borussia Dortmund.

As a bonus, Horn’s outstanding performance in goal comes just days after fellow local young goalkeeping star Bernd Leno was selected for the German national team, but also just a handful of minutes before Leno presented this Marc-Andre ter Stegen-esque boner.

It’s a Timo Horn world, Bernd. Sorry.

Timo made Kicker’s team of the week, even if Joachim Löw still is not convinced our young star is quite ready for the A-Nationalmannschaft.

But his time will come. Bet on that.

Man of the Match

Considering Timo is getting nominated for player-of-the-week honors in some venues, he’d be a great choice, but I’d like to give the big prize to another young guy with an increasingly promising future.

In case you were too busy being dazzled by Olkowski in the highlight above, go back and watch Gerhardt’s moves on the finish. If only I had that sort of composure in a high-pressure situation at the age of 21!

Well before YG31 doubled the effzeh lead, though, he’d been delivering great passes to teammates on both ends of the field and even produced a couple of dangerous shots when the game was still scoreless.

Gerhardt has been a great replacement in the defensive midfield while Kevin Vogt was injured, so much so that it’s hard to imagine him being returned to the bench. He had a few wasteful moments in the second half, but nothing that would prevent anyone from wanting to see him retaining his starter’s role.

Next?

Blech . . . international break. Hence, nothing next weekend, and it’s all the way to the following Sunday before we get to see more from our effzeh, when suddenly-showing-signs-of-life Hannover 96 come calling on Müngersdorf Stadion for a 6:30 a.m. PST start.

 

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