Shortly after the 1. FC Köln fell 2:0 at Union Berlin, the push notification arrived, reading “Keine Punkte zum Auftakt”
Obviously, they mean to announce that Thursday’s result was a loss, meaning the FC took zero points from the first match of 2019. Yet, I couldn’t help but read it and think, “Damned right, there was no point to the start!”
Perhaps that’s not an entirely fair reaction. The FC controlled the match by several measures (possession, passes played, shots, and corners), just not the one that actually matters (goals scored).
On the flip side of the lopsided-stats story, however, is the fact that the hosts were playing with a lead from incredibly early. If you’re not chasing on the scoreboard, you don’t necessarily need all those other statistics.
In about the time it took to think, “Oh yeah! I forgot that Marcel Hartel had moved to Union!”, Marcel Hartel had delivered a last-day entry into the goal-of-the-month competition with a bicycle kick to send a ball over Timo Horn and into the top corner of the goal.
'Right lads, let's get off to a good start tonight…'
An overhead kick after 30 seconds 🔥👏 pic.twitter.com/FzfYJOwuzN
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 31, 2019
The FC did, indeed, control much of the action for the rest of the first half, but hardly made sincere threats at an equalizer. Meanwhile, Union did double their lead at the 30th minute on what otherwise appeared to be a relatively harmless free kick from distance that was headed home by Florian Hübner.
The guests were spared the indignity of being saddled with a three-goal first-half deficit when Grischa Pömel’s tap-in was cancelled by an offside call.
But none of that mattered because the FC was simply not converting possession into goals, as evidenced by the final score. Certainly, goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz deserves credit for keeping the clean sheet with a few crucial stops, but Horn also was busier on the other end that what you’d want to see from a title contender.
Even after defender Ken Reichel collected a pair of yellow cards in a ten-minute span to give the guests a one-man advantage, there was no real sense of the FC being in the match.
And when trainer Markus Anfang looked at his bench for a potential insertion of offensive threat, there was no Simon Zoller nor any Serou Guirassy, so instead his final substitution came in the form of Frederik Sörensen.
You can look it up. I won’t be mad if you don’t believe me, because I could barely believe it myself even as I WAS WATCHING IT HAPPEN!
Thanks to Darmstadt taking St. Pauli down earlier in the week (Thanks, Lillies!), the FC remain in second place by two points. However, there is now a second club sandwiched with the FC between the two Hamburg-based clubs. Union has climbed into third, now also trailing Köln by three points.
It was not an ideal way to start a four-day stretch with back-to-back road matches, but also not a complete disaster. As difficult as it was to wait over a month for the FC’s return to action only to watch them unable to score, Union IS undefeated at home in ten matches this season. They have dropped just six points, while surrendering just five goals at the “stadium next to the old woodsman’s house” (again, look it up if you must).
Sunday’s opponent, FC Erzgebirge Aue, is better at home than they are on the road, but still a middling squad at best. It’ll be a good day to pad that league-best road goal-differential (+10) to keep the promotion race from getting too interesting, too early, as well as preventing any possibility of HSV increasing their hold on the league title.