Now the European Cup party of 1. FC Köln can really begin. Steffen Baumgart’s team averted the embarrassment at Lake Balaton and secured at least six more festival evenings and important millions in revenue. In the playoff second leg of the Conference League, Cologne won 3-0 (1-0) at Fehérvár FC in Hungary and, despite the 1-2 home defeat a week ago, still qualified for the main round.
This means that the Bundesliga is represented by eight clubs in the group stage of the European Cup for the first time in 14 years. The qualification gives FC around ten million euros. Money that the financially troubled club, which has already been eliminated from the cup, urgently needs. Central defender Timo Hübers (10th), Ellyes Skhiri (46th) and Kingsley Schindler (90th 4) scored the goals for the team of coach Steffen Baumgart, who had to follow the final minutes from the stands. The coach had seen yellow and red because he had protested too loudly.
Around 3,000 Cologne fans met at midday at the Országalma fountain in Szekesfehérvár and made a pilgrimage to the stadium all in red. It remained mostly peaceful. FC had agreed with the Hungarians that the guest contingent was increased from 700 to 2700 tickets. On site, the organizers meticulously made sure that no guest fans got into the home area, all tickets were personalized.
Baumgart surprisingly spared Jonas Hector, his captain and all-rounder, at kick-off. As expected and as in the first leg, FC took over the initiative directly, but as in the first leg, the Hungarians defended themselves bravely and set dangerous pinpricks on counterattacks. But FC quickly took the lead from a standard situation when Hübers headed in a corner from Florian Kainz. Since the away goals rule was abolished, the result from the first leg was already equalized.
However, the game was not a sure-fire success for the Bundesliga club. FC were clearly dominant, numerous corners and crosses sailed into the penalty area, but most of them were easy prey. And despite 13:2 shots on goal before the break, only Kainz’s shot from about 20 meters really posed a threat (37th). And so it was 2-0 even after a standard situation. Again it was a corner kick from Kainz, Kristian Pedersen extended, the strong Skhiri completed at the far post. And the Cologne fans sang in an endless loop: “European Cup, we’re back in the European Cup.”
Now the Hungarians were under pressure, but FC keeper Marvin Schwäbe passed his first test against Budu Zivzidadze with flying colors (61st).