Surprise Starter Švento Ends FC Goal Drought, Secures Split

Thoughts on the 1. FC Köln 1:1 at Weser Stadium with Werder Bremen:

How We Got There & What it Means

Though you never really want to give up the first goal of the game, if there’s a preferable situation in which to do it, it’s probably early in a match and against a team in a run of 18 consecutive matches without a clean sheet.

Make that 19 now for Werder Bremen.

svento

Good show, Pán Švento.

It took 75 minutes, but Dusan Švento delivered the equalizer to Jannik Vestergaard’s shouldered goal from the fourth minute to become just the second Billy Goat to score since October 4.

Bremen’s goal came in action following a Florian Grillitsch corner delivery that was sent toward the center line rather than directly into the penalty area. Clemens Fritz took a touch of the ball from Grillitsch, giving Švento just enough time to have Fritz’s delivery glance off him as he rushed toward the Werder captain to disrupt the attempt. The deflected ball took a higher arc toward Timo Horn’s left post where the lanky central defender beat both teammate Theodor Gebre Selassie and Dominic Maroh to it, with the ball ultimately striking the shoulder of the Danish national player and redirecting over everyone into the goal.

After the early setback, the 1. FC Köln took a large share of control of the match, though it became one mostly played in the midfield, with chances on either side a rarity.

The biggest chance for the guests came a little later when Anthony Modeste received a tidy pass from Švento and set himself up just inside the Werder area for a shot, which he sent too high to draw concern from Wiedwald.

Six minutes later, Anthony Ujah received a ball from Grillitsch on his way to the penalty area with only Dominique Heintz to beat. Heintz took an angle directly at Ujah and put his hands on the former Köln striker’s left shoulder, whereafter Ujah went tumbling to the turf, drawing the whistle for a penalty from referee Guido Winkmann.

Something like that, yeah?

Replays would seem to indicate that the play deserved, if anything, a yellow for the dive more than a penalty shot, but fortunately the Rasheed Wallace “Ball Don’t Lie” rule came into play when Horn and Ujah both picked the same corner, almost as if playing on the same team for three years might have given the effzeh keeper some ideas on how to defend Ujah in a penalty situation.

After a halftime double substitution, in which Anthony Modeste and Kevin Vogt made way for Simon Zoller and Yannick Gerhardt, Köln proceeded to take even more of the possession and actually creating some chances, though nothing too threatening until late in the game.

It was actually the more-passive Werder who had the biggest chance of the second half before the equalizer. Following a slick backwards pass by Claudio Pizarro from the goal line, a nice combination play between Gebre Selassie and Levin Öztunali led to a point-blank shot by the Czech right back that Horn parried away to his right to be cleaned up by Maroh and Gerhardt. Once again, a big play by Timo kept the effzeh in a game.

The series that led to the equalizer began innocently enough, with Jonas Hector (football god) picking Öztunali clean of the ball for what seemed like the tenth time in the second half as Werder insisted on penetrating down their right flank. The grandson of Uwe Seeler is young and speedy, but Hector showed superior chops in shutting him down repeatedly.

Maybe someday, young ‘un, but today it was all about Hector.

After taking the ball away from the battle, Hector dribbled a bit before playing to Matthias Lehmann toward the FC right flank. The captain increased his pace to cover the open space along the right side while creating more room for Marcel Risse to get deeper so he could receive a pass without being offside. When the pass came, Risse sent a precise cross toward target-man Yuya Osako who was fairly well covered by Alejandro Galvez. The ball landed just inside the six-yard box and deflected off one of the two players sliding to play it (I’ve watched it a dozen times and cannot say for sure it wasn’t Galvez who struck it). Wiedwald stopped the ball from going into goal, but couldn’t prevent it from returning to the center of the penalty area, where Švento beat Gebre Selassie to it and sent a shot past Wiedwald.

The Werder contingent appealed for an offsides call, as Osako was behind Wiedwald, but the Japanese national intentionally stayed flat on his back so as to avoid becoming “active” and potentially negating what followed. It was a savvy non-play by Osako, deserving of note for its contribution to gaining the point.

Moments later, Osako went around Vestergaard near the right edge of the penalty area. Instead of passing back to Gerhardt, who’d pulled up near the penalty spot, Osako tried for the game-winner himself and went high. It proved to be the last best chance for the visitors to snag two more points from the Bremen trip, which would have been just as well-deserved as the one collected.

Stock Watch

Rising – Dusan Švento

We’re going to need to talk about him again a little further down the page, but the sudden burst in value of the seemingly forgotten Slovakian shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s hard to know whether Stöger had a place for him in the team had Leonardo Bittencourt not been absent with the flu, but Švento was a force throughout the game and was in the middle of most of the offensive action in the second half for the effzeh.

But, as I said, we’ll get to him a bit more later. For now, it would seem a necessity to put him in the team again next week, even with a healthy Bittencourt available. The question will be how he’s deployed, and the answer could see yet another new face in the rotation at offensive-mid.

Falling – Anthony Modeste

Let’s face it, Modeste’s standing with the team has been in free fall for a few weeks now as he has seemed plagued by whatever it is that gets into athlete’s heads to turn them from red-hot to ice-cold. Everyone involved have been saying the right things. The coach has been continually bolstering Modeste’s confidence by being publicly supportive of his striker, while the Frenchman himself has spoken of wanting to repay the confidence by delivering the goods.

But by halftime Saturday, it had long been clear that none of the talk was changing Modeste’s on-pitch results. He wasn’t getting shots despite his team’s edge in possession, at least partially because he wasn’t winning his battles.

He’s shown too much already to be permanently shelved, but it may well be time for Big Mo’ to get one of those famous turns at sitting and watching to rethink his game.

Rising – Yuya Osako

I know! I know! Just hear me out!

No, it’s not just because he lay flat and effectively stayed out of the way on the point-winning play.

I am admittedly one of Osako’s biggest detractors. I am completely unable to see whatever it is that makes Stöger use him so frequently. His passes are often regrettable, and his slight frame is a liability in going up against the bigger bodies in the middle of opposing defenses. He is a completely ineffective offensive midfielder.

But when considering a new option up front, remember that Osako actually is not a midfielder at all. He clearly has the personality to answer “Whatever you want, coach!” when asked to play out of position, but he is a striker by trade and has show enough ability doing it to have been purchased for Bundesliga competition after just half a season in the second division at 1860 München.

Osako was credited with five shots Saturday. I’d be among those who’d quickly note that he didn’t connect on any of them, but at least he was getting the chances and provided an actively engaged presence up front, which is more than can be said for the ghost of Anthony Modeste.

And if they notion of Osako being the lone attacker frightens you, just remember that we haven’t really been scoring anyway. You can’t do worse than no goals, at any rate.

Man of the Match

One of the things I dislike about the selection of a game’s or match day’s top player or players is that you can usually identify the method used by whomever is doing the selection: “Hmmm . . . let’s see which defenders and midfielders scored!”

So, with apologies to Timo Horn who was immense once again . . . please don’t think I’ve taken the easy way out in selecting Švento here. Perhaps had Švento not gotten the equalizer, I’d have gone

Švento got the goal, of course, but also was probably the best passer in the final third of the pitch. Considering how often effzeh attacks fizzle out due to poor passes or flanks, Švento’s care with the ball was notable.

I’m completely playing armchair coach right now, but if Modeste gets his Denkpause, I would’t mind seeing Švento audition the midfield with Risse and Bittencourt on the flanks and Osako staying off the ball until the last moments as a striker-striker. If there’s a problem with the idea right this minute, in my view, it’s that there’s just the one match left in which to give it a test and it’s against a pretty hefty opponent.

Whatever the case, more Švento please. He deserves at least another look.

Next?

Just one more match before the winter break and it’s a big one with Thomas Tuchel and his rejuvenated high-flying goal-scoring Borussia Dortmund show coming to town. It’ll be another Saturday match in the normal European-afternoon slot, which means another early morning for us US-based fans before we go into hibernation through the month-plus before we’re left with just FC-TV replays or even <shudder> Premier League.

Or college bowl season, I suppose. That American football still is an okay game, isn’t it?

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