Regardless of how a game might look over the course of its first 73 minutes, if the scoreboard still reads 0:0 at that point, it’s an even match by the only measure that counts.
The 1. FC Köln defense was tested repeatedly by VfB Stuttgart’s new attacking-style play for much of the time when the game remained scoreless. But the visitors remained steadfast in turning their hosts away and taking their opportunities when they came.
And it was after another Stuttgart effort ended in the gloves of Timo Horn that the effzeh put the game on its head.
Let’s unwrap the gift delivered by Kevin Vogt, Leonardo Bittencourt, Anthony Modeste, a collection of ball-watching defenders, and a keeper just a fraction of a moment too late.
Timo Horn had looked to restart play quickly after snatching a fairly non-threatening ball out of the air, but didn’t like any of the options available to him, so he booted it into the middle of the field. Timo Baumgartl got enough of the ball to return it back toward the center line, but his header travelled more vertically than horizontally.
You can see from where everyone is looking that the effzeh have the ground space below the ball’s path fairly well surrounded, while Stuttgart has just the two guys in position to attack.
I note the position of Kevin “Robo” Vogt, because . . .
Vogt flies into the middle of the action to take to the sky and win the moment with Christian Gentner unable to resist the power and glory of a Robo-Vogt attack. Vogt’s header sends the ball back in the other direction.
Anthony “Big Mo'” Modeste on the far right is ready to bolt goal-wards, just in case Vogt’s momentum is enough for him to get his header over the Stuttgart back four. Yuya Osako is turning to do likewise, while Leonardo Bittencourt holds his spot as an closer outlet.
Lukas Rupp and Florian Klein were already in fairly decent position to deal with Bittencourt, should the ball get to him, which it did. Bittencourt chests the ball down and has little option but to scramble to even just try to keep the ball.
As Bittencourt navigates away from Klein, Gentner closes down to help Rupp attempt to take the ball off the effzeh winger, which proves to be less simple than it would have appeared.
Meanwhile, Osako and Modeste have reset and settled into onside positions, which end up being fairly easy to maintain anonymously as not one of the Stuttgart defenders can be bothered to keep tabs on the strikers, instead focusing intently on the double-teamed guy with the ball.
I suppose it can be said that Vogt and Simon Zoller are also just standing and watching, but they have less-urgent responsibilities in this particular frame.
And, somehow, Bittencourt has Houdini-s his way out of that double-team and bursts into space.
Leo shows that, in addition to the technical skill to dance out of tight spots, he possesses fairly decent field-vision and a deft touch. He spots Modeste making his break and plays the ball through accordingly.
Emiliano Insua, who we had just seen be completely oblivious to the whereabouts of Big Mo’, has the gall to throw his hand in the air to indicate to the referee assistant that Modeste should be flagged as having been offside.
Either that, or he’s letting his coach know that he’s aware that he is among the people now guilty of having blown his marking duties.
Someday, the Bundesliga will hook me up with a budget, with which I’ll hire a professional photographer to make sure I’m not stuck with blurry screen caps when trying to tell a story.
For now . . . blurry screen cap . . . which almost shows that Big Mo’ got his boot on the ball before Przemysław Tytoń’s fingertips could quite get there. I guess you have to take my word on it, if you didn’t see it.
After Tyton got not even a fingertip on the ball, he made a whole lot of contact with Modeste’s lower body, even reaching up to grab at the attacker’s knee, maybe just in case the ball didn’t get past the goal line and Modeste somehow managed to keep his feet.
I suppose you have to play innocent, if just for the odd chance that the one person being paid to see such things didn’t happen to see what the rest of the tens-of-thousands in the building saw fairly clearly.
You DID touch him, and fairly thoroughly.
From there, it’s a fairly straightforward case of converting the penalty, taking the lead, unknotting the string on the waist of your shorts where you’ve tied a baby pacifier, celebrate your first goal with your new club with the pacifier in your mouth, and get back to business.
The business of victory . . . come on EFFZEH!