There were whistles from the ranks, coach Steffen Baumgart looked grim and took a deep sip of frustration from the water bottle: 1. FC Köln’s European Cup comeback has gone horribly wrong. After the 1: 2 (1: 2) in the playoff first leg at home against Fehérvár FC, the Bundesliga soccer club has to worry about entering the group stage of the Conference League, mainly because of a 70-minute deficit. FC are under pressure in the second leg in Hungary next week.
The 2-1 win for Fehérvár, which is being looked after by German coach Michael Boris, was scored by long-time Hertha player Palkó Dardái (40th), son of ex-Hertha coach Pal Dardái. The Cologne team, who failed in the first round of the DFB Cup, are actually financially dependent on the additional income of around ten million in the group phase.
“We were sent off and then we were severely punished twice,” said Thomas Kessler, Head of Licensing at FC: “But it’s only half-time, we still have one game left in Hungary and I’m confident that we can still do that Turn.” Captain Jonas Hector also said on RTL: “There is definitely something in there next week.”
When Baumgart made his European Cup debut as coach, it was cold consolation that FC striker Florian Dietz continued his personal football fairy tale with the opening goal (14th). A week and a half ago, he was still a 24-year-old regional league player without a professional assignment. Dietz, who was suddenly promoted to the starting XI after the sale of Anthony Modeste to Borussia Dortmund, made his mark eleven days after his professional debut and five days after his first Bundesliga goal Premiere goal in the European Cup. From the 20th minute Cologne played ten after defender Julian Chabot rightly saw Dárdai red after an emergency brake. Budu Zivzivadze headed the equalizer (32′).
Before the first European Cup game in 1715 days, the FC fans, dressed all in red, had choreographed their team to “eat up Europe”. And the FC professionals seemed determined and highly motivated from the first second. However, the Hungarians, lined up by Boris with a defensive five-man line, proved to be tough and passionate defenders.
After ten minutes, the strong Dejan Ljubicic had the lead upside down, but didn’t really catch the ball after Jan Thielmann’s cross. Two minutes later, after a nice pass from Ljubicic, Dietz shook off two opponents and pushed the ball in ice-cold.
But six minutes later, Cologne were decimated when Julian Chabot fouled Dardái as the last man 20 meters from goal. Although referee Tiago Lopes was justified in sending him off, Chabot seemed surprised. The defender didn’t even look at first and then looked completely shocked when he saw the red card.
Baumgart, who did not wear a suit in the European Cup, but stood on the sidelines first in a red shirt and then in a white shirt, did not change. After being sent off, he pulled Hector back from central midfield to his usual left-back position and played in a 4-2-2-1 – but Zivzivadze headed in the equalizer after a wonderful cross from Loic Nego. And Dardái went under the bar with a spectacular diagonal shot before the break.
It was only after about an hour that the Cologne team got back on their feet and put more pressure on, substitute Linton Maina hit the post (70th).