Borussia Dortmund capped a memorable week by hammering Cologne 6-1 to restore their five-point cushion over Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table. Coming on the back of reaching the German Cup final after defeating Greuther Fürth on Tuesday, Jürgen Klopp’s side were simply too good for Ståle Solbakken’s relegation battlers, who end the weekend just one point above the drop-zone. This result is also the joint-worst in Cologne’s history of home games: the other side to have ever beaten them 6-1 in the cathedral city? Borussia Dortmund, this time in 1994.
But, here and now, the technically limited 2012 crop of players were unable to get star man Lukas Podolski into today’s game, and as a result, Cologne rarely troubled their guests, who look inspired in attack thanks to the efforts of the magnificent and effervescent Shinji Kagawa. Solbakken’s side now face an absolutely crucial game away at a rejuvenated Augsburg next weekend, while Klopp’s champions-elect face a trickier tie than the one they breezed through at the RheinEnergieStadion this afternoon as they host in-form Stuttgart at the Westfalenstadion.
Cologne (4-4-2, from right to left): Michael Rensing; Mišo Brečko, Henrique Sereno, Pedro Geromel, Christian Eichner; Christian Clemens, Martin Lanig, Sascha Riether, Sławomir Peszko; Podolski, Milivoje Novakovič
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Roman Weidenfeller; Łukasz Piszczek, Neven Subotić, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer; Sven Bender, İlkay Gündoğan; Jakub ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski, Kagawa, Kevin Großkreutz; Robert Lewandowski
The technically-superior visitors found it easier to keep hold of the ball for prolonged periods in the opening stages, with the hosts content to sit off and keep a tight, creativity-stifling shape. Dortmund spread themselves out as widely as they could when in attack, looking to exploit the narrowness of Cologne’s off-ball system (or, attempting to break it apart). However, the pace of the away side’s play was calm (if not casual), and the lack of urgency meant that Rensing remained untroubled in a rather forgettable – save for one or two Cologne attempts at counter-attacking down the left – opening ten minutes.
In the 11th minute, the gulf in quality between these two sides was epitomised when Clemens – the dribbler – and Novakovič – the lay-off guy – tried to break through into Weidenfeller’s box. Alas, the movement was obvious, the touches heavy, and the ball easily carried away to safety by a yellow-shirted player. The way the crowd were so excited by Clemens’ carrying the ball forward a few yards – and the manner in which it was so coolly mopped up by Hummels – gave the game a David-v-Goliath-in-the-cup feel. Yet, just one minute later, the Slovenian striker handed the home side lead. After Brečko travelled with the ball down the right but found his path blocked, the former Hamburg right-back pulled it back to Lanig. The blonde-haired former Stuttgart midfielder curled a high and deep cross into the box, where Novakovič took advantage of neither Dortmund centre-back taking charge and Weidenfeller getting caught in No Man’s Land to head into an empty net for 1-0!
The game was more open in the five-minute spell which followed Cologne’s opener, although Dortmund continued to be frustrated by the hard work being put in by the hosts’ midfielders, who didn’t let any of the visitors’ creative players enjoy the luxury of time on the ball. With Kagawa roaming either deep or on the flanks to try and make something happen, Lewandowski looked lost and isolated among the tight and narrow bank of four white-shirted defenders. The Polish international eventually began to lurk a little deeper, although a move in the 20th minute showed the problems with this, as Dortmund’s four foremost attacking players all ran in a single bank from the halfway line when Kagawa got hold of the ball and ran at the deep defence and well-positioned Cologne midfield. The Japanese international had to delay his pass until one of the wingers (Kuba, in this case) got wide, giving the hosts even more time to get comfy in their shape, which was now a very deep 4-4-1, with Podolski then ahead of his colleagues on the halfway line.
Dortmund were, however, now starting to attack with a greater degree of urgency, and Kagawa was growing in stature as the game went on. However, rather than from open play, their 25th minute equalizer came courtesy of a set-piece. The visitors won the free-kick in question near the right flank’s corner flag after Riether had handled. Schmelzer’s left-footed, slow, curling delivery to the nearest edge of the six-yard box was met by Piszczek, whose wonderfully-timed leap proved too much for the surrounding defenders, and whose perfectly-placed header was nigh-on impossible for Rensing to stop. The effort was Dortmund’s first on target of the game, but it was enough to make the score 1-1!
The visitors’ right-back then had a great chance to double his side’s lead in the 29th minute, making a surprise dart to the back-post to meet a Schmelzer cross on the half-volley. Despite the brilliant timing of the run, which caught Cologne cold, Piszczek showed poor composure, and blazed over first-time. Dortmund were very much on top at this stage, with Kagawa still pulling the growing-in-confidence away side’s strings. Cologne did nearly manage to release Podolski in the 31st minute with a route-one pass out of defence, but Subotić showed good pace, calmness and intelligence to read the flight of the ball and intercept it before the Arsenal-bound striker could home in on goal.
Despite the hosts continuing to sit in their narrow and compact two banks of four when Dortmund had possession in the final-third, the away side were now looking to get in behind their guests through the centre. With a runner dragging the relevant Cologne wide-midfielder with him on a decoy run down the chalk, either Schmelzer, Kagawa or Piszczek would then carry the ball infield, looking to play a one-two with Lewandowski or Bender, and then attempting to play a through-pass between the offside-trap-attempting defence. Although initial attempts at doing this did not succeed, it highlighted the fact that Dortmund were willing to adopt a multi-dimensional approach to breaking their opponents down and winning this game, and were not as physically and mentally affected by the 120 minutes of DFB-Pokal semi-final football they played during the week as one might have started to think after watching the opening ten minutes of this match.
However, Podolski went close to re-handing Cologne the lead in the 37th minute – receiving the final pass in a 50-yard zig-zag passing move enacted by some of the hosts’ midfielders, only to see his eventual shot saved by Weidenfeller. Three minutes later, Piszczek was causing havoc in Rensing’s box yet again; getting on the end of another cross from the left (Kagawa), and heading across goal for Bender to turn into the former Bayern Munich goalkeeper’s net. However, the German international midfielder had strayed offside. The half finished with Dortmund continuing to attack (aided by having two technically gifted centre-backs who seemed to make every pass a midfield-splicing through-ball), and going close to re-taking the lead in the 44th minute thanks to another pinpoint Kagawa delivery. Alas, several yellow-shirted players got in each other’s way, all wanting to nudge the ball past Rensing, and resultantly, the teams went in tied at one apiece.
The formations that started the second half
Cologne (4-4-2, from right to left): Rensing; Brečko, Sereno, Geromel, Ammar Jemal; Clemens, Lanig, Riether, Peszko; Podolski, Novakovič
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotić, Hummels, Schmelzer; Bender, Gündoğan; Błaszczykowski, Kagawa, Großkreutz; Lewandowski
Tunisian defender Jemal replaced Christian Eichner in the only change made by either coach at the break (in a bid to try and stop Piszczek, one presumes), but seven minutes into the second half, Borussia Dortmund were 3-1 ahead. First, Kagawa blasted in after being teed up by a Piszczek header following a 46th minute free-kick. And then, six minutes later, Lewandowski – who had been virtually anonymous – tapped into an empty net after a sumptuous diagonal through-ball played by his compatriot, Kuba.
Understandably, the atmosphere at the RheinEnergieStadion was somewhat flat in the immediate aftermath of not one, but two hammer-blows. Bender was given a rest by Klopp on the hour mark, with Sebastian Kehl taking his place in a like-for-like change. As we neared the 70-minute mark, Dortmund were becoming more masterful with every touch of the ball. Playing as expansively as they could, the visitors kept the ball with discipline, and used it with swagger. Cologne, looking seriously deflated, ran from side to side; all in vain, of course, with the red-shirted players unable to stop the humiliation.
Both coaches made further substitutions around the 75-minute mark, with Klopp bringing on Ivan Perišić for Großkreutz, and Solbakken removing the ineffectual Peszko for Mikael Ishak. In the 77th minute, though, the game was finally put to bed. The Cologne defence was caught out by a Sereno slip due to the fact they were standing so high, with a number of Dortmund players in the vicinity. One of them, Gündoğan, slipped in Kagawa through the left-hand side of the box, and rather than shooting himself, the Japanese international unselfishly squared for Gündoğan to walk the ball in for 4-1! Two minutes later, it was 5-1. Piszczek was slipped in down the right after making a superb overlap, he squared across the box, where there were four yellow-shirted players all by themselves and onside. Kagawa tapped in, capping a memorable performance with his second of the match. He was then replaced by Moritz Leitner, but the man of the match champagne was already guaranteed to be in the former Cerezo Osaka star’s wine cellar this evening.
A minute later, Kevin Pezzoni replaced Lanig, but his Norwegian coach was sending him on to join nine outfield colleagues who had all-but given up. In the 84th minute, Dortmund trudged their way through the Cologne defence for the umpteenth time, with Perišić this time putting the ball past Rensing, making it 6-1. Lest we forget, earlier on this season, Dortmund defeated Cologne 5-0. Two games, 11 goals – Solbakken will struggle to justify such an embarrassing stat to his paymasters, despite the quality Klopp was able to call on over those 180 minutes of one-sided football. If Cologne had lost 3-1 today, it wouldn’t have been so bad, as they would have stayed above Freiburg in the league. Now, however, they are behind Christian Streich’s side on goal difference, and can’t count on the feel-good spirit and point-collecting form being enjoyed and shown at Freiburg and Augsburg. These are dark days for Cologne, and you can’t help but feel that things will get worse before they get better.
The formations that finished the match
Cologne (4-4-2, from right to left): Rensing; Brečko, Sereno, Geromel, Jemal; Ishak, Riether, Pezzoni, Clemens; Novakovič, Podolski
Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotić, Hummels, Schmelzer; Kehl, Gündoğan; Błaszczykowski, Leitner, Perišić; Lewandowski