The quick and dirty low-down after 1. FC Köln’s 1-2 loss to FC Augsburg.
Three losses in a row is bad enough, but the way the three losses have come has been particularly troubling.
- First, it was a fluke-y deflection of a late free kick that gave Hertha BSC a win on the return from break.
- What followed was 5-1 blowout to the corporate team across the river, featuring a non-call that allowed the idea that a proper officiating decision might have led to a different result.
- And now it’s a 90th minute goal to turn the 1-0 hafltime lead on its head resulting in yet another loss.
It’s not only three in a row that are losses, but four of the last five. Just three points from the last five matches has yet to result in a complete plunge in the table, but Sunday results could yet send Köln, currently still holding onto twelfth, down to fourteenth, which would make much more alarming the recent trend of clubs below collecting points.
Or, in other words, this team has played itself back into the thick of the relegation battle that leadership had stated from Day One was going to be the reality of the season.
A Tale of Two Halves
The idea of a match turning at halftime, leading to someone to use Charles Dickens to lead into a discussion of it, is a complete cliche, but the difference in the two halves was stark.
The visitors attempted early to present a ball-possession game maybe thinking their hosts would be content to sit back and defend as they’d been seen doing in several matches so far this season. The Billy Goats did not oblige, though, putting enough pressure on the ball handlers to create a number of interesting counter chances, which probably should have resulted in more than the one Vogt-Olkowski-Ujah combination that completely exposed the FCA defense and provided the relief of a lead by the thirteenth minute of the match.
For whatever reason, the match settled into a much more familiar pattern after the halftime break. Gone were the fast explorations into the final third of the pitch, replaced by a slower pace that occasionally found the home side on their heels. A Timo Horn parry of a Paul Verhaegh shot nearly evaded the nearby Nikola Djurdjic, who ultimately stumbled over the ball and went with it into the goal to equalize.
The game winner came off the foot of Alexander Esswein, though it was assisted by a slight deflection off Mergim Mavraj, which puts Mavraj in the middle of two gut-punch home losses (his hand play put Freiburg at the spot for the only goal on match day ten) as the tragic figure of slight misfortune with big consequences.
On the Rise
Yes, Ujah scored, but, no, he’s not getting the obvious benefit of being the lone goal scorer.
Though, that too.
You have to give credit to Pawel Olkowski for what was an incredibly well-placed pass with what appeared to be just the right amount of touch on it, but Ujah’s first touch of it while perfectly positioned between Augburg center backs was a beauty. Our Tönn then looked the consummate professional with a quick collection and score past Alexander Manninger, who truly had no chance.
Beyond that, though. it needs to be pointed out that Ujah had some success in getting to balls in the air today, which is 100% more success in that aspect of the game than we’d really seen at any point this season.
I’d add that Ujah was also his usual self in getting back to help with defense, but we all sort of just expect that anymore, don’t we?
With stalwart defensive midfielder and secondary captain Matthias Lehmann serving a suspension after getting his fifth yellow card of the season last week, one question coming into today was, “Which player and/or what tactics will be used to fill the void left by Matzelinho’s absence?”
The pleasant surprise of an answer was young Yannick Gerhardt who made his longest appearance of the season, playing all ninety minutes in just his third Bundesliga start. Gerhardt made himself highly visible in spots with his mobility and tackling ability, showing he may very well be ready to be counted on as the need arises. Though, with a performance like this one, the hope will of course be that he soon assumes a more long-term role.
Hey man . . . sit back down . . .
It’s probably too simple to put some of the blame for the poor second half on the shoulders of the man who came on at halftime, but I’m going to do it anyway.
As if to serve as an emblem of being a focal point of the big second half slowdown, Matu stepped up to take a free kick near the touch line a bit into the Effzeh’s own half. Instead of playing it either short or forward, #8 launched it back across the pitch toward the far front corner of the penalty area, where Kevin Wimmer was there to receive it, but was put under immediate pressure as FCA players swarmed toward the floating orb. Wimmer was forced to make a play that would, at worst, be a clearance, which is what it ended up being as it went out of touch near the center line.
Fixing what ain’t obviously broken
My less-savvy football brain is not capable of grasping the need to remove Svento from the match at the halftime break in order to put Matuschyk on the pitch. I will only hope it was not a thought toward preserving a 1-o lead that had already grown somewhat stale by that point, because that may not be completely a loser’s mentality, it’s certainly also not that of a winner.
Without question, there are risks involved in playing more aggressively in the offensive half, but it had provided a lead and several chances ripe for the picking. The failure to convert did seem the sort of thing that eventually returns to haunt a side who’s been wasting chances, but the alternative is to go back into a shell and hope you’re good enough and lucky enough to avoid the sort of things that often happen in football from happening.
But we also cannot reserve all the blame for the appearance of one player or the decision-making of the coach, because FC Augsburg, under Markus Weinzierl, has a tendency to get away with results. He steered the club to safety his debut season after it had already been relegated by winter break. Last year he took a team largely considered to be a relegation battle participant and had them solidly in the middle of the table all year. After a raid on his talent stocks, he again was thought to be in charged of a doomed ship, but Augsburg is instead playing up at the top of the table with the big boys.
That said, the match appeared to be in control of the Effeh, and then it wasn’t. Whatever happened, simply cannot happen to a team so in need of points.
Match Ball goes to . . .
Ujah had the goal, and Gerhardt had the more-impressive overall game, but Kevin Vogt was a highly influential force on the pitch today against his former club. He takes a bit of a hit for some errant passes and a cross so poorly targeted he may as well just rolled it to the nearest opponent, but between knowing his usual partner had been replaced with a youngster and the typical boost you get from playing against former teammates, Vogt was a highly visible presence on both ends of the pitch and looked like he was game for the challenge.
Köln, the third team in the away table will next play at Schalke 04, the third team in the home table. Not only is Schalke undefeated in league play at Veltins Arena, but are on a three match winning streak, with at least three goals scored in each of the victories.