Odise Roshi settled a drab relegation six-pointer after coming off the bench to score with one of his first touches. At a frosty Fritz-Walter-Stadion, Kaiserslautern did most of the attacking in the first half, with Cologne more concerned about keepings things tight. But, several moments of stupidity by Ariel Borysiuk’s earned the young Pole a red card on his début shortly before half-time – a game-changing occurrence, as Cologne were firmly in the driving seat from then on. Although the visitors struggled to open up the ten-men of Kaiserslautern, who were content to sit back and play for a stalemate, the young Albanian speed-merchant made the crucial difference from a corner – which he won – in the 70th minute. This result lifts Cologne up to ninth in the table, six points above the relegation zone – the ‘highest’ team in which remain Kaiserslautern.
Kaiserslautern (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Kevin Trapp; Florian Dick, Antar Yahia, Rodnei, Alexander Bugera; Borysiuk, Christian Tiffert; Sandro Wagner, Olcay Şahan, Nicolai Jørgensen; Itay Shechter
Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Henrique Sereno Fonseca, Kevin McKenna, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether; Christian Clemens, Mato Jajalo, Sławomir Peszko; Milivoje Novakovič
On a snow-smattered and grass-sparse pitch, both sides pressed heavily in the opening stages – a good idea not only because touches were heavy and the ball slow-moving, but also because the conditions were well below freezing, and the players needed to warm up somehow. The home side soon got to grips with the conditions, however, and carved out a good chance in the fourth minute after some cute and clever build-up play (involving, among others, Wagner, who was everywhere in the opening five minutes). As we approached the tenth minute, Cologne had begun to find their shape, and by keeping things more compact, they were starting to stifle Kaiserslautern, and ensuring that their own midfielders – particularly Lanig – got on the ball more.
The visitors pressed the home side’s centre-backs whenever they indulged in a spot of passing the ball among themselves, and this ensured that the game’s tempo remained high as we edged towards the quarter-hour mark. With Cologne still looking tight in their defensive shape, Kaiserslautern had to work hard to find gaps. In the 11th minute, the ball was fed out to Dick on the overlap, with Eichner going across to attend to him near the corner flag. With the two centre-backs and full-back whose side the ball was not on always staying extremely close together (and in this particular case, being occupied nearer towards the back-post by Wagner and Shechter), Dick pulled the ball back for Şahan, who had made a run into the gap between the block of three defenders and Eichner. However, the former Duisburg man’s finish was wayward, just like Peszko’s at the other end moments later after a fine square across the six-yard box by Jajalo.
Kaiserslautern had more of the element of surprise to their attacks, with Shechter and Wagner both looking to bed fed in the channels when and where possible. Although Jajalo’s movement was good in the opening 20 minutes for Cologne, Novakovič – not long back from injury – looked rusty, and was anonymous for the duration of the first half. Attack-wise, the home side were also helped by the fact that it was easier for them to mobilise their full-backs in the other half than it was for Cologne, who still looked primarily focused on holding their shape. With Dick, in particular, constantly bombing up and down, the creative and long-range shot specialist Şahan had the luxury of being able to float infield (poor old Jørgensen, on the other hand, saw the left side ignored by and large throughout the first half, rendering him a spectator). One or two through-balls aside, the 24-year-old wasn’t able to provide a huge threat in an attacking sense in the early stages, although his presence succeeded in occupying Lanig and Riether, thereby continuing to isolate Cologne’s own attackers.
Nevertheless, it was the visitors who so nearly took the lead in the 22nd minute. From the right, Jajalo – a constant threat – sent in a rather teasing floated free-kick, and McKenna too easily got above his marker to head at goal. Unfortunately for Cologne, the Canadian’s effort smashed back off the post, with Trapp a mere pedestrian. Two corners followed for the away side, with Sereno and Geromel both having half-chances. But, as we reached the 25-minute mark, the match remained scoreless.
Kaiserslautern continued to get crosses into the box (although far less regularly than they had done in the opening stages because they were misplacing far too many passes), with Cologne seemingly willing to accept such situations as a given; and, rather than trying to stop them at source, instead concentrating on flooding the box to knock the ball clear. With the visitors still pressing fairly high up the pitch, the hosts’ pass-spreading string-puller, Tiffert, was struggling to make an impact. However, it was his sumptuous cross from the right flank – where he was increasingly seeking refuge – in the 36th minute which gave Kaiserslautern their best chance yet: Shechter getting across Geromel to head across goal, only for Rensing to pull off a fine save.
Then, with five minutes until the half-time interval, disaster struck for the home side. Borysiuk, who had picked up a booking in the 35th minute for a cynical and ugly hack on Jajalo, whose dust he had been left eating, then committed another silly foul three minutes later, before finally taking referee Wolfgang Stark to the end of his tether in the 40th minute with a shove on Peszko. The official pulled out a second yellow card, sending the young Pole off on his debut. Kaiserslautern coach Marco Kurz, in the technical area, was absolutely outraged at the decision, although in my opinion, Stark got it spot on. Resultantly, during the last few minutes of the half, the atmosphere inside the Fritz-Walter-Stadion was particularly poisonous, the cacophony of whistles and jeers making it for quite a din. The home side stayed in a 4-4-1 until the break, although neither they or Cologne did any attacking of note, ensuring that we went in at half-time scoreless.
Second-half starting formations
Kaiserslautern (4-4-1, from right to left): Trapp; Dick, Yahia, Rodnei, Bugera; Tiffert; Şahan, Tiffert, Oliver Kirch, Jørgensen; Wagner
Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Rensing; Sereno, McKenna, Geromel, Eichner; Lanig, Riether; Clemens, Jajalo, Peszko; Novakovič
Kaiserslautern started the second half in the same 4-4-1 formation, although Kurz had replaced Shechter with Kirch, moving the defensive-midfielder in alongside Tiffert, and pushing Wagner up front. Unsurprisingly, the 11 men of Cologne started the second 45 minutes doing most of the running, with Novakovič at last making his presence felt by going close with two chances in the space of a minute early on, and then having an effort ruled out for offside (the latter being created, as per usual, by Jajalo). The hosts weren’t being lured in by Cologne’s attempts to wear themselves out, so didn’t chase most of the aimless long-diagonals, and pressed only in their own half. For a side who have barely scored all season, with ten men, it really was now a case of a damage limitation.
As we approached the hour mark, there was a swagger to Cologne’s play as they passed the ball about patiently in the Kaiserslautern half – everyone bar the centre-backs and Riether standing or bobbing about in the final-third of the pitch. In the 62nd minute, Kurz turned to his bench again, replacing Bugera with Leon Jessen in a like-for-like change. It was the Cologne full-backs who were the more conspicuous of the two sets on show now, mind, with Sereno and Eichner heavily involved in an attacking sense. Nevertheless, Dick got the chance to fly forward in the 64th minute, exciting the crowd as he picked up pace and ate ground. However, Kaiserslautern had been sitting so deep, they couldn’t get enough options up towards Rensing’s box in time, although Dick’s eventual cross was poor anyway.
For all their possession and confidence and zest on the ball, Cologne had not got in behind Kaiserslautern since the aforementioned disallowed goal in the 53rd minute. So, in the 70th minute, Cologne coach Ståle Solbakken brought on two attackers – neither of them the club’s latest purchase, Chŏng Tae-se – in place of Lanig and Peszko: Odise Roshi, and Mikael Ishak. With his first touch, the former produced a fine save from Trapp with a volley. Before the corner that effort and save produced could be taken, the goalkeeper needed help from the Kaiserslautern physio to adjust a contact lens. A minute or two later, Clemens finally swung in a right-footed inswinger from the left, and, making a diagonal dart towards the near post was Roshi, whose fantastic acceleration met the ball decisively and headed past Trapp to hand Cologne a 1-0 lead!
Kurz made an attacking substitution a few minutes after seeing his side fall behind, replacing Jørgensen with another of the club’s January buys, Jakub Świerczok. In an extremely positive 4-1-2-2 system, the hosts attacked with determination in the spell immediately after Roshi’s goal, looking more like the side that started the game. However, Cologne nearly secured a game-ending goal in the 80th minute when Roshi’s pace again caused havoc – the Albanian this time burning Jessen, before crossing a little too weakly for the six-yard box-heading duo of Novakovič and Ishak. Shortly after the latter went close with a right-footed volley, Solbakken shifted back from his 4-1-3-2 to a more cautious, game-closing 4-2-3-1: instigated by replacing Novakovič with Kevin Pezzoni, who moved into a left-sided defensive-midfield position.
Kurz’s side, meanwhile, threw the proverbial kitchen sink at their guests, but just like the rest of the game, Rensing had pretty much nothing to do. Cologne saw out the win – their first in Kaiserslautern for more than two decades. The three points sets Solbakken and his squad up nicely for next weekend’s home tie against Hamburg, and a win there could see Cologne starting to look up rather than down the Bundesliga table. Kaiserslautern, however, have the daunting task of playing Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, followed by a match against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The formations that finished the match
Kaiserslautern (4-1-2-2, from right to left): Trapp; Dick, Yahia, Rodnei, Jessen; Kirch; Şahan, Tiffert; Wagner, Świerczok
Cologne (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Rensing; Sereno, McKenna, Geromel, Eichner; Riether, Pezzoni; Roshi, Jajalo, Clemens; Ishak