Taking a break from celebrating to discuss the 1. FC Köln’s 1:0 Rhine Derby victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach:
How We Got There and What it Means
In the 64th minute of an evenly played match that was largely devoid of chances or even inspiring moments, Leonardo Bittencourt stopped his tentative advance
down the left flank, put the ball on his right foot, and looped a pass through the air toward Anthony Modeste, who kept his record of scoring in Bundesliga matches for 1. FC Köln at a sparkling 5-for-5 by beating Andreas Christensen to the ball’s highest attackable point and heading home the goal that will assure the big French newcomer’s legacy at the club as the man who delivered a derby-winning goal.
Beating Borussia Mönchengladbach keeps the hated rival of the 1. FC Köln horse-glued to the bottom of the Bundesliga table without a single point after five matches. Köln’s first win over ‘Gladbach also puts the club at ten points after just five match days. Considering the stated goal is “40 points as soon as we can and then, we’ll see,” Peter Stöger’s guys have eclipsed the 25% mark of that points goal with less than 15% of the season having elapsed.
Too early to start dreaming of a Europapokal? Not if you’re effzeh and especially not if you know your role of being publicly overly optimistic while holding the true pragmatic nature of your fandom silenced by drowning it in a steady supply of Kölsch.
More than anything, though, beating die Fohlen at home for the first time in ten years is the absolute best mouthwash to be rid of the taste that lingered from last week’s dismantling at the feet of Alex Meier and Eintracht Frankfurt. Not only can we somewhat dismiss that result as a bit of a fluke, but are again assured our coach and team have the strategic mind and character to make the right adjustments in the wake of such a disaster. We might even start to think of how this team might exact a measure of revenge for that result in the Rückspiel.
For now, we’ll try to not too much further ahead than that we’ve finished Saturday in fourth, will drop no further down than fifth whatever happens on Sunday, and have the opportunity to continue the positive momentum in just a few days as English week and, hence, a midweek trip to Berlin is here.
The big takeaway from this match is going to be that Stöger was never over-committed to shifting his game plan away from the defense-first orientation. While the attacking and high-pressing stuff we saw in the summer had a certain eye-appeal, the success it showed wasn’t fully translating from tests to the Bundesliga.
Of course, if you pay attention to Stöger, you know that stubbornness isn’t really how he manages things. He’ll change personnel when he sees cause and will adapt the game plan to fit the players he has available. Hence, it’s no big surprise to see the team largely return to last year’s highly effective keep-the-clean-sheet defense as the first look he threw at the visitors.
But, again, Stöger can mix it up, which he did by sending Jojic into the game for Vogt, abandoning the double-pivot for some offense. You wouldn’t have taken it as the coach saying he’d have been fine missing on the first clean sheet of the season, but as Mönchengladbach showed little in the offensive phase even with plenty of possession, Stöger was clearly willing to gamble a little bit on securing a big win.
And win is what he did.
Rising -The Sørensen-Heintz central-defense tandem
It’s only fair to deliver credit where credit is due. As worrying as these guys were a week ago is how solid they were in their first Rheinderby.
Sørensen particularly deserves praise for personally turning a handful of Mönchengladbach moments from shot attempts into shots harmlessly deflected in a direction other than goal-ward.
Heintz made a couple of timely tackles early and was otherwise a stout presence against the hesitant Fohlen attack as the effzeh salted away the victory.
And from a sheer fan standpoint, it was a treat to watch Heintz irritate the Gladbacher’s late in the game and even ignore their offers of help from the turf, rolling away to get up under his own power. He gave the impression he was enjoying being in full “derby mode” in his first appearance in it.
Rising – Matthias Lehmann
As long as I’m crediting guys who took personal hits from a game in which nobody did very well, let’s at least point out that captain Matzelinho had himself a gem of a game today, showing the leadership-by-example that makes him such a great successor to Miso Brecko.
In the wake of last week’s embarrassment, Lehmann made no excuses, nor did he over-analyze. He just noted the six goals conceded and said that it was simply not good enough.
Whatever struggles the opponent is having in creative offense, Lehmann and his surrounding teammates all deserve credit for keeping Timo Horn from having had to do much of anything for his first clean sheet of the year.
Falling – Borussia Mönchengladbach
I’m not picking anyone out as slipping on the day of such a momentous derby win.
But if Pawel Olkowski and Milos Jojic don’t find a groove soon, I’m going to be pretty damned annoyed with both men on whom I was very high coming into the season.
And, if Dominic Maroh wasn’t inserted after the poor showing of the two central defenders last weekend, what role can we expect him to play going forward? Seems as if the message is that he’s the odd man out, but with Stöger, you can never really know for sure.
Man of the Match
I was leaning heavily toward Sørensen for this and may regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to go with a defender.
Yet, it’s a game of goals, and the one scored today by Anthony Modeste will be long remembered for lifting the effzeh to a derby victory.
So another MotM for Big Mo’!
It wasn’t just about the goal, mind you. Modeste has scored in each game so far for a good reason: he’s a problem for defenders. I remember that the criticism that followed him from Hoffenheim revolved around his not being a fully effective striker. There may have been some signs of that in the summer when he was converting few of the many chances he was getting, but at a five-games-four-goals clip, it’s hard to make sense of such a charge. He’s been so good, that the ill-received departure of Anthony Ujah now seems like a blessing-in-disguise.
As he’s been in every match, Modeste was difficult to defend, in general.
Bittencourt’s delivery on the goal was great, but Modeste made great use of the space allowed him by Andreas Christensen to move to meet the ball while omitting any possibility the Chelsea loanee had of influencing the play by simply moving between defender and where Modeste calculated he could get to the ball in the air.
Otherwise, he had a few other chances, but it was the constant threat of his size and speed that kept the Gladbach defenders from confidently supporting attack while in possession too far up the field.
Considering how infrequently action came to him as the lone striker, the fact that he won at least a dozen two-fights assures that the attack can be built through the midfield, though the option of going to the big fella over the top always remains a fine weapon, as well.
So, tip of the hat to Sørensen, but the nod goes to Modeste.
It’s English week, which means an extra match day inserted between weekends. Köln will travel to the German capitol to face Hertha BSC at the Olympic Stadium. Last year’s Berlin trip resulted in a scoreless draw. The last win at Hertha came in 2009 in a single-goal battle in which Milivoje Novakovic provided the game-winner off a Lukas Podolski free kick.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. EST Tuesday. (Follow @planeteffzeh on Twitter for information on a RabbleTV live broadcast of the match from yours truly!)
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