Köln make better use of fewer chances, down Stuttgart 3:1

Some thoughts from 1. FC Köln’s season-opening 3:1 victory over VfB Stuttgart at Mercedes-Benz Arena.

What it Means

As it was the final result of the match day, when the final whistle blew, it quickly became known that the 1. FC Köln would spend the week fourth in the table, inspiring many citizens of Planet Effzeh to announce that “the league could end like this, and I’d be happy.”

Despite being the better side for large stretches, VfB Stuttgart’s winless streak against Köln in their own house, dating back to September 8, 1996, will likely reach 20 years of age, especially if Stuttgart do not host Köln early in the 2016-17 season.

The win does put an end to another lengthy streak, though. It was the first time since 2007 that the Billy Goats won their season opener, when they beat St. Pauli 2:0 in Hamburg in the 2. Bundesliga. You have to go back a little further, 2005, to get to the last time the club won their opening match in the Bundesliga, beating Mainz 1-0 in a season that ended in relegation for the effzeh.

The last time 1. FC Köln went on the road on match day 1 and won in the Bundesliga, you have to go all the way back to August 18, 1996, with Fortuna Düsseldorf the victim of a 3:0 effzeh victory.

But that’s all just so much history.

Takeaways

It’s difficult to take too much away from Sunday’s match. The boys in red were on their heels for much of the match, hemmed into their own defensive end of the pitch not necessarily because it was part of a game plan to retain a clean sheet, rather because the new-look VfB Stuttgart was successfully implementing new coach Alexander Zorniger’s high-tempo pressing game to great success.

They just couldn’t convert their many chances.

What we did get to see was a resilient Köln side not tucking tail in the face of Stuttgart’s never-ending assault, instead sticking to the plan and trying to get into the offensive phase, knowing that Stuttgart was giving some things up defensively to press so vigorously.

What it looked like, once the breakthrough finally came, was ‘resilience.’ Regardless of how little success there was to be had, frustration never really showed in the team’s demeanor.

Stock Watch

Rising – Simon Zoller

Considering how quickly the big-money transfer of last summer seemed to have flamed out in Köln, one could argue his stock could go in only one direction.

Look away, VfB fans. This doesn't end well for you.

Look away, VfB fans. This doesn’t end well for you.

A widely lauded summer of preparation seemed enough to get him out of the coach’s doghouse and onto the field as a 68th minute sub. When Kevin Vogt found him unmarked in the area, Zoller expertly set himself up with his first touch and hammered home a striker’s goal with his second.

When a team is struggling to put together chances, a little help from the opponent in the form of a foul in the area provides a great opportunity to snatch an undeserved lead.

But Zoller’s strike was decisive and turned that bit of good fortune into Köln suddenly seizing control of the day.

Falling – Simon Zoller

Are you kidding me?

Just moments after celebrating as the hero after having all but put the points away, Zoller’s sliding challenge from behind along the left side of the area got just enough of Filip Kostić’s right leg to open the door through which Stuttgart could resume control of play.

Just Kidding – Simon Zoller

Not really taking you back down for the challenge, as much as there was little to love about it.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Some mixture of good fortune and slightly inaccurate finishing can be credited for the effzeh being in the position to score first. Stuttgart were all over the place and looked nothing like the team that scuffled near the bottom of the table in recent seasons. It’s a small sample size, and you can never quite account for the added effort in a home opener or for a new coach’s debut, but you can see why many pundits have the VfB tabbed for “surprise of the season.”

In the end, as has been said before, 1. FC Köln have been on the wrong side of the final score in plenty of matches they otherwise dominated. That’s just football.

Man of the Match

Anthony Modeste's pacifier goal-celebration

Anthony Modeste’s pacifier goal-celebration

When VfB Stuttgart finally provided 1. FC Köln with an opening, it was Anthony Modeste who kicked it open. It wasn’t the most well-struck penalty fans at Mercedes-Benz Arena saw even in just a five-minute span, but it was good enough to break the deadlock and give the effzeh a lead in a match where it seemed the best they could hope for was to get one of those scoreless draws for which last year’s squad was so famous.

When the hosts were desperately trying to burst back into the match to salvage a point, it was Modeste beating two Stuttgarters to a ball at midfield and sprinting free toward the VfB goal that slammed the door finally shut. He didn’t get the goal, but drew keeper Przemyslaw Tyton into committing to Modeste before sliding the ball to his right for completely unmarked Yuya Osako, who had enough time and space to settle himself and assure he didn’t blow the chance to seal the deal.

In a game with few offensive opportunities for the effzeh, Modeste cashed-in big-time on a few to deliver the points.

Plus, the big fella cashed-in a few charm points Sunday, too.

Modeste’s goal baby-pacifier-centric goal celebration likely was intended as tribute to his son, Brooklyn Anthony Jr., who was born earlier this summer. Some of us have a soft spot for a guy letting his “Daddy” side show in happy moments.

Congrats, all-around, Big Mo’.

Next?

Back to Köln for Saturday’s home opener against a team picked to be near the top of the table, VfL Wolfsburg. Kickoff is set for 9:30 a.m. EST.

Of the nine match day 2 fixtures, Köln-Wolfsburg is one of just two in which both teams took three points from their season opener.

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