The 2016-17 season ended on the highest of highs for our Billy Goats: a fifth-place finish, qualification for European competition for the first time in a quarter-century, and a top-three goal-scorer. Excitement for the 2017-18 season could not have been any bigger for Köln.
However, expectations had to be tempered starting with week one, as major questions welcomed the team.
How much can the new forward signing Cordoba fill the empty shoes left by Modeste?
Do we have the depth to fight on three fronts?
Was a 5th place finish just a lucky fluke or the start of something?
All of those concerns came to the forefront with an immediate pressured-filled opening match at bitter rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Rhine Derby.
Köln started with a nice little spark, sending a cross just in front of goal, but no one was there to meet it.
From there it was all ‘gladbach, putting Timo Horn to work for the next 20 minutes, forcing about a half-dozen saves.
In the 19th minute, Cordoba finally found some space and made a nice attacking run on the left, getting the FC’s first shot on goal. A few minutes later, the first yellow card of the match went to Gladbach newcomer Denis Zakaria. Cordoba made another good run a little bit later down the right side. Cordoba showed signs of aggressiveness and willingness to attack early on in his first Bundesliga match for the FC.
The first half pretty much ended with Konstantin Rausch taking a hard foul from Thorgan Hazard and needing to be subbed-off for Jannes “the other” Horn.
Overall, it was a pretty rough 45 minutes for Köln. There was just too much pace from Gladbach. Even with the defense looking organized, it is fair to say the FC was lucky to be level at the break.
The good fortune ended in the 49th minute. though, with the game-winning goal by Niko Elvedi that had seemingly been coming since the start of the match.
An Ibrahima Traoré cross found Elvedi unmarked at the far post. Elvidi slotted it in easily.
Köln didn’t fret too much though, serving a lovely counter the very next minute. Once again, though, there was not enough quality in the finish to get on the scoreboard.
Stöger made his second sub in the 59th minute, bringing Sehrou Guirassy for Marcel Risse. The defense was still holding-up okay despite the goal, and Stöger showed he really wanted to push for the equalizer.
Throughout the next 15 minutes or so, the FC displayed much better possession and even strung some solid attacks together.
Simon Zoller came on for Leonardo Bittencourt in the 75th minute.
In the final minutes of the match and stoppage time, Köln won a couple of free kicks but just as it was in the first half, nothing would ultimately find the back of the net, and the match ended 1-0.
A season-opening match away from home was always going to be a tall order, especially against ‘gladbach. They were clearly the better squad over 90 minutes, but Köln showed some positive signs. They still had a relatively organized defense, and the offense never gave up.
Cordoba probably needs to cool the nerves a little, as the Bundesliga is a different beast than a few preseason test matches. Köln has an opportunity to get on the right path with the home opener this Friday against Hamburger SV and a chance to welcome Osako back into the fold.