Following the 2:0 victory of 1. FC Köln, coach Peter Stöger delivered a statement in the post-match press conference. Below, I’ve taken several of his quotes and used them as the basis for some of my own observations from the day, you know, seeing as he is a man of relatively few words and I one with so many that I cannot help but write them and then subject you to them.
We are very satisfied.
You have to be ‘very satisfied,’ don’t you?
While you can certainly pick at the edges of certain elements of the match (and we will get to that), your team opened at home with a convincing 2:0 victory. You know that coach likes to see his team with a clean sheet at the final whistle, so that bucket is filled. Even better, the two goals came as the result of a decided advantage in possession and shots. The FC looked every bit the superior team here. That’s a terrific way to spend 90 minutes.
You never know exactly where you stand when the season begins after preparations.
Which is true. You never really know what you have until you see it in live action. Test matches simply cannot provide the proper “test” that would yield a reliable notion.
That said, the test played behind closed doors against 1. FSV Mainz might have at least foreshadowed how the season opener would go.
Against a solid Mainz squad who earned a European spot last season, the FC put together a solid 3:0 win at the Bruchweg. Indeed, it was still a test, but it was the last test of the summer, coming just four days before the DFB Cup match against BFC Preussen.
Of course, the word “exactly” has its place here, and we can all be certain that even with a match that counts in the books, we still don’t know “exactly” where the team stands as far as the run of the season is concerned. There are always multiple variables to challenge a team and its personnel throughout the year.
The magic of a season opener and the off-season that precedes it is that it provides a natural time of transition from the truth of the season that has ended to the wonder of “what might be” in the season to come. Before the first match begins, everyone is tied for first and even the most-cynical have some degree of hope hiding in their hearts, even if they won’t admit it.
Winning the first game of the season extends that magical realm beyond its natural bounds. We effzeh can point to the table and sing about Champions League, knowing that the 2:0 and the international break that is now upon us means that we are not required to start worrying about the reality that will eventually announce itself.
We won the game deservedly.
Again, this is unquestionable. Darmstadt can hardly point to any moments in the match where they had legitimate opportunity to score and certainly not as many as they will want to address as problematic when they get back to the training ground. It’s natural to look at how Darmstadt played and credit that with how the match ended, but as Lillien coach Norbert Meier said at the post-game press conference, “You also have to say that the Kölner performed very well.”
What Meier didn’t want to acknowledge was that if the Cologne players had been better at finishing even only the biggest chances, the score line might have rivaled that from Friday’s Bayern-Werder match for gaudiest of the match day.
We left many goal-scoring opportunities laying.
The match wasn’t even two minutes old before the FC had already failed to cash two huge opportunities.
First, Leonardo Bittencourt got into a showdown with Michael Esser and spiked his shot off the Darmstadt keepers knee. Either a superior shot or a pass to a wide-open Anthony Modeste in front of the unguarded goal would have spared us the reminder of how much a problem “chance conversion” has been.
Rather, it would have, except that on the first day back from summer, you tend to not get dragged back into the doldrums quite so easily.
BUT . . . had Bittencourt either scored or assisted Big Mo’, Artjoms Rudnevs would likely not have then had the chance moments later to bounce a shot off the far post and back into play, with Modeste again in front of the goal wondering how the guys on his flanks aren’t sending him the ball.
There were a few more chances that preceded Marcel Risse’s 1:0 in the eleventh minute, but none quite as breathtakingly alluring as the first two.
However, we also showed from the very beginning that, even with these temperatures, that we were going to try to get the players engaged rather that wait.
It occurs that it might have been Stöger’s plan to try to get on the board early, if for no other reason, because the robust heat in Köln Saturday was going to wear players out a bit sooner than usual.
Even if the boss intends to utilize more free-flowing and eye-catching offensive football, we know that the defense-first approach with which we’ve become very familiar is not going away permanently.
It was also known that with our opponent, their situation was such that they could not play that way. We wanted to take advantage of that.
Sadly, the summer was a bit harsh on SV Darmstadt. The biggest loss for the Lillien is unquestionably that of trainer Dirk Schuster, who led Darmstadt from 3. Liga through a successful first season in the Bundesliga in just three-and-a-half seasons. FC Augsburg tabbed Schuster to replace Markus Weinzierl, who is now with Schalke. Without wanting to completely disparage Meier, let’s just say his familiarity with being relegated may come in handy in a few months. (I hope not!)
Darmstadt also lost leading goal-scorer Sandro Wagner to Hoffenheim, goalkeeper Christian Mathenia, and Konstantin Rausch, who missed the opportunity to face his former teammates due to a back injury suffered late in the week.
So not only was Darmstadt fielding a new squad under new management, one member of the starting eleven, Anis Ben-Hatira, has been with the club for less than a week, having just signed last Monday.
It might seem taboo from a US-sports point-of-view for a coach to point out such deficiencies in an opponent, but Stöger matter-of-factly stated something that truly was nothing other than a matter of fact. With relatively little personnel change, a fifth-year trainer knows his end product is an unknown quantity. It makes sense to figure that a team with so much turnover might struggle to handle a team playing aggressively from the very beginning.