1. FC Cologne left last place in the Bundesliga with a 1-0 tremor against basement rivals Darmstadt 98 and moved past the Lilies on Friday evening (December 1st, 2023) thanks to the better goal difference.
“We are in a relegation battle, victories count for us. It was extremely important”Selke said afterwards: “We always said we wanted to talk less and do more. It was a successful evening.” Defense chief Timo Hübers praised the team performance: “It was good as a group.”
Coach Steffen Baumgart was also happy: “We’re happy with the three points, there’s not much more to say about this game. We need 30 corners to score, but without that set piece we wouldn’t have scored today.”
Markus Philipp, Sportschau, December 1st, 2023 11:08 p.m
Fear of mistakes, lots of fouls and ball losses
All in all, it was a tough game. Even in the first round between the last-place team and the fourth-place team, you could tell that both teams were extremely afraid of making mistakes. Risk avoidance was the top priority, at times there was a lot of choking and shouting, a festival of bad passes, and excessively hard fouls like those from Florian Kainz against Marvin Mehlem (18th) dominated the proceedings. Based on the standings in the table, there was next to no progress.
The Darmstadt team at least tried a few times from a distance, but Marvin Schwäbe in the FC goal didn’t have to intervene. The statistics at the break were a complete disgrace: both teams had not fired a single (!) shot at the opposing goal in the entire first 45 minutes.
Baumgart makes a double change at the break
What Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart thought of his team’s performance was clear from his reaction at halftime: Both Kainz and Luca Kilian finished work early, but things didn’t get significantly better with Luca Waldschmidt and Max Finkgräge at first.
At least both keepers were allowed to provide proof of work. Schwäbe effortlessly saved a shot from Tim Skarke in the 48th minute, who also missed another chance in the 55th minute with a shot past the right corner.
Shoes first strong, then powerless
Things got more complicated for Marcel Schuhen on the other side. But with a classy reflex, Darmstadt’s goalkeeper parried a hard finish from Dejan Ljubicic in the 57th minute. Three minutes later, Schuhen was powerless: After a corner, the Lilien’s attempt to clear the ball failed colossally and landed directly at the far post to Davie Selke, who scored from close range to take the lead 1-0.
After that, the video assistant referee increasingly became the focus. When Waldschmidt supposedly made it 2-0 for Cologne in the 66th minute, the veto came from the Cologne cellar because passer Linton Maina had previously been offside.
Penalty taken back for Darmstadt
Six minutes later there was a big alarm again on the pitch and on the sidelines. Patrick Ittrich decided on a hand penalty for Darmstadt after a shot by Fabian Nürnberger, but the VAR called in again. Ittrich then watched the scene again on the video screen and took back the penalty: Although Timo Hübers had clearly blocked the ball with his elbow, he had crossed his arms behind his back and held them directly to his body – the correction of the decision was absolutely justifiable.
Markus Philipp, Sportschau, December 1st, 2023 10:53 p.m
As a result, the Darmstadt team tried their best to equalize, but the FC defense, which was absolutely fit for the first division that evening, allowed next to nothing. Cologne could have saved themselves the stress until injury time, but Waldschmidt (89th) and Finkgräfe (90th + 3) missed two great chances to make it 2-0.
Darmstadt in Heidenheim, Cologne against Mainz
The Lilies will be challenged in Heidenheim on the next matchday (Saturday, December 9th, 2023 at 3:30 p.m.). A day later, Cologne hosts 1. FSV Mainz 05 (5:30 p.m.).