How patience and persistence paid off for Köln in victory over St. Pauli

Artwork by @chapulana.

One of the biggest games of the 2. Bundesliga took place on Friday night between third-placed Köln and second-placed St. Pauli. The hosts have a game in hand against Erzgebirge Aue which takes place in a fortnight, they could ill afford defeat. Their last competitive fixture came more than a week ago and it was a 2-0 defeat to Union Berlin.

Whilst St. Pauli were coming off an impressive win against fellow promotional challengers Union Berlin. A win for St. Pauli would see them create a gap to Köln and cement themselves as the second-best side in the league.

What we got was a thoroughly enjoyable game, goals aplenty and a surprising catalyst who would be the difference maker. This match analysis will take you through Köln’s 4-1 win over St. Pauli


From the side that tasted defeat in Köpenick, Markus Anfang made a couple of changes to his team. Remaining in the 3-5-2, Christian Clemens was given an opportunity at right wing-back with Marcel Risse dropping to the bench. Risse has become a strong option in a changing tactical side with his pace and good ball retention. However, Risse is a liability on the defensive end despite being a makeshift defender all season. Captain Jonas Hector returned to the lineup after being out through injury, he was very much a welcomed addition to a Köln side needing to bounce back.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Markus Kauczinski completely changed his team’s setup for the Friday night fixture. For the first time this season, St. Pauli operated with three at the back with Justin Hoogma making his first start since joining on loan from Hoffenheim. Christopher Butchmann and Luca Zander both coming into the XI with Mats Møller Dæhli and Waldemar Sobota dropping to the bench. With Zander coming in at right wing-back, Jan-Philipp Kalla moved to left wing-back in place of Daniel Buballa. The biggest change came in goals. Robin Himmelmann had succumbed to injury giving 21-year-old Hamburg-native Svend Brodersen his first professional start.

Patience in the build-up

In what has been a common theme in games at the RheinEnergieStadion this season, Köln have plenty of opportunities to hold and maintain possession. Teams have tended to sit deep in defence allowing Köln to patiently build inside their opponent’s half. Midway through the first half, we see a good example of Köln making multiple plays of switching the ball in an attempt to prior open St. Pauli’s defence.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Christian Clemens begins this segment on the right of midfield and as is indicated above, he can play the ball centrally to multiple options. If Clemens played the ball into the middle, Köln could quickly make a play but St. Pauli are well covered thus making it a low percentage option. Clemens opts to play back to Jorge Mere.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

To get the switch moving at tempo, Czichos immediately drops out wide to stretch the St. Pauli defence. Mere quickly takes possession and plays the ball to Czichos.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Florian Kainz is in a similar position to Clemens but on the left, he receives possession from Czichos. The Austrian can either play the ball centrally to Geis creating an option or revert back to Czichos who drops back to halfway. A perfect triangle has emerged with Sami Allagui pressuring the ball.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

The play rescinds back to Jorge Mere who plays to the third centre-back Benno Schmitz. Köln would continue to switch the play before finally breaking down the St. Pauli defence which leads to an opportunity on goal. 

Right place, right time

Set-pieces played their part in this fixture and it’s important to gain an understanding of why. Heading into this their game against Köln, St. Pauli had only conceded six goals from set-pieces. In this game alone, two of the four goals conceded by Markus Kauczinski were as a result of set-plays. Let’s take a look at Köln’s opening goal scored by Jhon Cordoba.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

As you can see, Jhon Cordoba is being loosely marked by Jan-Philipp Kalla prior to the corner being taken. St. Pauli have two players in Alexander Meier and Christopher Buchtmann manning the space in front of the goalkeeper. All Köln players in the 18-yard box are marked relatively tightly with the exception of the Kalla and Cordoba match-up.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Cordoba is in no position to win the initial play on the ball so he makes his way inside the six-yard area. Kalla’s poor marking allows his opponent to get goal side. If Rafael Czichos’ header finds its way on target or hits the post or crossbar, Cordoba is in a fantastic position to make a redirection at goal.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

The header by Czichos is heading wide of the target. But thanks to some quick thinking by Simon Terodde, he beats out his opponent Justin Hoogma and redirects the ball on goal. As outlined, Kalla has strayed further away from Cordoba.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Terodde’s redirection cannons off the upright and straight to an unmarked Jhon Cordoba. The Columbian makes no mistake and gives the Köln the lead. Had Kalla been goal side or tightly marking Cordoba, this goal could’ve been prevented.

Carbon Copy?

As with the first goal in the match, St. Pauli would equalise from a corner. Alexander Meier who only joined the team during the winter break was in the right place at the right time for his third goal of the season.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

From the initial setup, we can see Köln are defending the set-piece considerably tighter than St. Pauli. Any player outside the 18 is given plenty of space on the assumption that they won’t charge into the box.  There are two players to keep an eye on as the player develops, Sami Allagui who is being marked by Johannes Geis and Alex Meier who has Simon Terodde for company.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Christopher Buchtmann’s delivery is in an inviting area for his teammates. Sami Allagui reads it best and beats his opponent Geis to the optimal spot. Two Köln defenders are ball watching and if the ball doesn’t go in their favour, they are horribly out of position.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Allagui’s effort on goal is straight at goalkeeper Timo Horn who up to this point has retreated to his line. The ball is coming at pace but it’s not a catchable height. Horn’s best option is to try and parry the ball out for a corner.  Whilst conceding another set piece gives St. Pauli another opportunity to reload, a parry back into play could lead to an attempt on goal.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Unfortunately for Horn, the ball is unable to parry to safety giving three St. Pauli players a chance at goal. Meier who has been tightly marked by Terodde breaks free and is first to the ball. Horn has recovered well and has another chance to thwart a goal scoring opportunity. It would Meier who gets the edge and beats Horn in the bottom corner.

Getting comfortable

Köln have an abundance of talent in midfield with many teams in the 2. Bundesliga dreaming of having such depth. The only issue, the vast majority of them are injured. Marco Höger, Salih Özcan, Vincent Koziello and Louis Schaub have been missed considerable time due to injury. This forced Köln’s Sporting Director Armin Veh to enter the market and he brought in Schalke midfielder Johannes Geis. The 25-year-old has been no existent in Gelsenkirchen under Domenico Tedesco and played all of last season with Sevilla.

Geis’ first game with Köln against Union Berlin was poor, he looked rusty despite being match fit. The Schweinfurt-native is well-known for his set-pieces but rarely showed it in his Köln debut. That being said, Geis was brilliant against St. Pauli with his set-piece routines and in possession. He looked like the Geis people had grown accustomed to from his days at Mainz and early stages at Schalke. Let’s take a look at some of his action from last Friday.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

Just above, Johannes Geis is about to turn an unassuming build-up into a quick attack which leads to Köln retaking the lead. Christian Clemens plays the ball centrally to Jorge Mere. The Spaniard lays the ball off to Geis who is dropping deep in-between his own defenders. What the picture doesn’t show is Clemens making an excellent run into space which has been vacated by Kalla. Geis takes one touch backwards before producing an accurate long ball to Clemens running in stride.

Köln St. Pauli 2. Bundesliga Tactical Analysis Analysis

The ball is exquisite, with Kalla out of position and Clemens attacking the space it’s already a good attacking opportunity for Köln. Clemens will square the ball to an unmarked Jhon Cordoba who gives Köln the lead for the second time on the night.

Jhon Cordoba: The unlikely hero

With the game evenly poised at half time, the game was crying for a hero. On the Köln side, the obvious two would be Simon Terodde and Dominick Drexler. Prior to this, Terodde had 22 goals to his name and led all comers whilst Drexler was second in the 2. Bundesliga in assists with 8. For St. Pauli, they would need to bring on more attacking players like Møller Dæhli if they were to improve their chances.

In the midst of big-named 2. Bundesliga players is Columbian-born Jhon Cordoba who would change the complexion of the game in Köln’s favour. Cordoba’s history in Germany has been lean, an initial spell with Mainz where he scored only 13 times from 59 appearances. The 25-year-old made his way to Köln in the summer of 2017/18 where he was expected to produce a similar output to the departing Anthony Modeste. His first season in the Karneval city difficult where he went goalless in the Bundesliga and his goals came in the DFB Pokal and Europa League.

With Cordoba remaining in Köln, it was questioned whether he would be able to produce goals on a consistent basis in the second tier. A fair assessment on Cordoba is that he has proven to be a good secondary scorer for Köln as Terodde has launched Anfang’s offensive play into the stratosphere.  If Cordoba can continue to support Terodde, this partnership has the potential to be the best in the 2. Bundesliga.


Despite St. Pauli showing an element of ineptitude going forward, they didn’t do a whole lot wrong. A bit of luck could’ve seen a different result. Svend Brodersen put in an excellent display even after conceding four goals, he was on hand to make countless saves. If he didn’t provide a strong showing, the scoreline could’ve been worse.

This was a huge win for Köln, in a time where multiple teams were breathing down their necks they come up big. The real win for Köln was Jhon Cordoba. His goal scoring up to this point of his career has been substandard, a year in the 2. Bundesliga has been good for him. The question will be, can he continue to provide the goals in Köln’s quest for promotion?

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