A massive Monday night fixture at the RheinEnergieStadion took place on Matchday 29 of the 2. Bundesliga. Köln entered the night seven points clear of their opponents Hamburger SV, they are very much in the best position to not only go straight back up to the Bundesliga but also take the crown as champions. But Köln are coming off a difficult midweek fixture which ended in a 4-4 draw away at Duisburg where they looked vulnerable defensively.
Hamburg are under pressure, heading into Monday’s fixture Hannes Wolf’s side sat only two points above Union Berlin. They come off a defeat to Magdeburg at home where once again they coughed up the lead in stoppage time for the second time in 2019. Darmstadt were able to overturn a deficit at the Volksparkstadion. Whilst Hamburg fans are visibly frustrated by the football produced by Wolf, it’s hard to question that Hamburg sit in second.
This encounter in Köln was a tale of two halves, Köln were rampant in the first half and should’ve had a bigger cushion than a 1-0 lead. They would be made to pay for a poor second half which Hamburg took full advantage of. Hamburg enjoyed plenty of possession and were allowed to take control of the game after half time and were well deserving of a point.
After the 4-4 in Duisburg on Wednesday night, Markus Anfang was inclined to make just the one change from that side. 2. Bundesliga’s top goal scorer in Simon Terodde returned to partner Jhon Córdoba up top with Anthony Modeste dropping to the bench. It would seem Anfang is happy to keep Córdoba as one of the strikers with Terodde and Modeste being swapped in and out.
Hamburg, on the other hand, were forced into a number of changes from the side that succumbed to defeat at the hands of Magdeburg. Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Hamburg’s top scorer was out injured and due to the lack of depth up top, Berkay Özcan would line up as the lone striker. He would play as a false nine. Wolf reverted to a 4-1-4-1 formation with Kyriakos Papadopoulos and David Bates dropping out in favour of Leo Lacroix and Vasilije Janjičič. Lewis Holtby also missed this one with Khaled Narey coming in to add quickness on the wings.
Dissecting the defence by Dominick Drexler
Arguably Köln’s most important player, Dominick Drexler had another strong performance on Monday night. Playing in an attacking midfield role, Drexler was given free flowing role which saw him in expansive positions on the pitch. On many occasions, we would see Drexler on both flanks providing an option and continue the play going forward.
The key in the early build is making the high percentage play when being outnumbered on the touchline. Drexler has an excellent of playing the possession on its merit and by doing so he is able to keep the ball flowing and get Köln into an attacking situation. Here, Drexler plays the ball to Christian Clemens and immediately attacks the space between Douglas Santos and Orel Mangala.
Clemens plays a precise ball first time to Drexler who is now greeted by Santos. With no immediate options, Drexler swiftly disposes of the Hamburg left back and now the defence is exposed.
Drexler plays the ball to Terodde who has a paddock in front of him with Lacroix and Gotoku Sakai both drawn to Córdoba. The end product results in very little but thanks to Drexler making the right plays at the right time, Köln are able to pierce the defence and get a high-quality scoring chance.
Köln takes the lead
Midway through the first half, Köln have been in complete control of this contest but have yet to trouble the scorers. Now the hosts have a set piece and on a head to head basis this favour Köln. Prior to Monday nights meeting, Hamburg had one of the worst defences when it came to set-pieces conceding 15 times this season. Conversely, Köln were fantastic at scoring from set-pieces with 17 goals so far which was a league best. The hosts would make it 18 set-piece goals for the season and jump to a 1-0 lead.
The scene is set, Johannes Geis is over the corner kick. Hamburg are in a man to man set although admittedly it isn’t particularly tight. As was consistent throughout this match, Hamburg tend to have a player at the back post which in this instance is Sakai. His opponent is Drexler who is already having a strong impact on the contest. There is plenty of space at the edge of the six-yard box to which the Köln players prepare to attack.
As the delivery from Geis enters the area the Köln players attack the before mentioned space. Marco Höger is first to the ball and heads towards goal. Sakai retracts toward the goal line to cover any danger that goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck can’t deal with. Without being tightly marked by Sakai, Drexler rolls into position between Pollersbeck and his opponent.
Höger’s header isn’t on target and falls to a very dangerous area inside the six-yard box. Drexler who at this stage is unmarked is in a great position and clinically strikes the ball into the back of the net. Hamburg had been warned in the early stages of this game and once again their Achilles heal of defending set-pieces saw the visitors concede.
Hamburg begin to turn the screws
After being outclassed in the first half but Köln, Hamburg were fortunate to be only a goal down after a poor first 45. But after the break we saw a much better showing from a side desperate to avoid defend. Admittedly, the visitors were aided by some strange tactical decisions by Anfang which played into Hamburg’s hands. By using their quick players out wide, Hamburg were able to catch the Köln defence out of position and create goal scoring opportunities.
Sakai has possession inside his own half with Köln not pressing intensely. Gideon Jung begins to create space and moves out wide towards the touchline. With Drexler closing in on Sakai, the Hamburg captain plays the ball out wide.
Jung under no pressure has time to turn and does so. With Köln’s defensive line creeping up, Narey is ready to make a run in and behind the defence. Jung plays the ball into the open space vacated by Florian Kainz and Narey is able to win possession.
As Narey picks up possession he has no options available to him so continues his foray down the right hand side. The Köln defence are frantically streaming back to limit Narey’s options. Jatta who isn’t pictured is being marked by Marcel Risse, whilst he has Risse covered for pace but he isn’t in an ideal position.
Narey delivers the ball into a dangerous area but thanks to Risse’s excellent defensive position, he is able to clear any potiential danger. Although Jatta is beaten to the ball by Risse, the signs were there for Hamburg. By having an abundance of possession in the second half they were able to put Köln’s back three under considerable pressure. Eventually, Hamburg would break through.
Jann-Fiete Arp has been built up as one of Germany’s hottest prospects and he will be on his way to Bayern Munich at the end of the season. However, Arp has been a non fixture since Wolf took over as Hamburg manager logging only 382 minutes this without hitting the scoresheet. Wolf has exiled Arp to the second team and it would come as a surprise if we see Arp again.
However, Hamburg fans should be excited about 20-year-old striker Manuel Wintzheimer who joined from Bayern Munich U19 at the start of the season. Whilst he hasn’t featured very often only playing a total of 31 minutes, he has patiently awaited his opportunity and when it came on Monday night he duly took it.
At this point in the game, Hamburg have been the better side and dominated the second half. Yet they have nothing to show for it. We arrive at another set-piece, Köln’s is operating in a man to man set and have one player defending the near post and another guarding space.
Like Köln’s goal, Hamburg aim for the space at the edge of the six-yard box. As the ball comes in the Köln defence are able to clear the ball in Risse’s directions.
Risse tries to control possession and it backfires, Narey is able to move the ball forward and keep the ball inside the area. Wintzheimer is a potential target but it over shoots his direction and lands to Douglas Santos.
The ball ping pongs in the area until the ball kindly finds Wintzheimer in a little bit of space. Wintzheimer is look to shoot the ball across the body of Köln keeper Timo Horn. But his shot is deflected off former Hamburg defender Lasse Sobiech and into the back of the net. Horn is quite unlucky with the deflection as he gets wrong footed and the ball trickles in.
Whilst Arp was a Hamburg academy player, it has become evident throughout the season that his mind hasn’t been in the right place. Wolf has been critical of the wunderkind and with reason as their was an expectation that Arp would kick on in the 2. Bundesliga. However, with Arp out of the picture we can only hope to see more of Wintzheimer in the coming weeks.
Although the points were shared, the result hurts Hamburg more than it does Köln. Wolf’s side now sit three points above Union Berlin in third and those two meet later in the season. They must be wary of those behind them, Hamburg have dropped a bunch of points along the way but this draw keeps the door ajar for those below.
Köln still keep their comfy cushion atop of the 2. Bundesliga, the draw doesn’t affect them and are still in a prime position to go up. However, negative tactics used by Anfang in the second half and the lack of a killer instinct really hurt the hosts. As Köln are a certainty to go up, this is only a blip in the road of what should be a season which ends in promotion.