Hamburg’s winless run stretches to six with draw against Cologne
Despite being cheered on by 4,000 fans in fancy dress to celebrate the city’s carnival, Cologne could only manage a split of the points on Sunday following a 1-1 draw at Hamburg.
Simon Zoller opened the scoring for the visitors before Nicolai Müller scored a superb equalizer at the start of the second half. Both sides are part of the league’s unpredictable mid-table area where most teams are not good enough for European football, but just good enough to remain outside of relegation bother. Results elsewhere in the league though are forcing Cologne and Hamburg to keep an eye behind them as the two former German champions continue a poor run of form.
Following his head butt on teammmate Michael Gregoritsch, forward Ivo Ilicevic was one of three players dropping out. The Croatian has been suspended by the club for his reaction to a strong tackle by Gregoritsch in training this week. Labbadia welcomed back Emir Spahic and Gotoku Sakai in place of Cleber and Dennis Diekmeier. The start from the hosts who hadn’t won in three home Bundesliga games was encouraging. Seven minutes in and Aaron Hunt probed around the box, eventually finding the run of Müller who wasn’t able to get the ball out from under his feet.
Conceding just two goals last week is perhaps letting Hamburg off the hook. Stuttgart’s 2-1 victory last Saturday was two-going-on-seven with the home side squandering enough chances to win two or three matches. It was the sort of slackness that Lewis Holtby showed in 19 minutes which was the side’s downfall a week ago. The midfielder’s square ball was predictable enough for Cologne to intercept, but they were unable to take advantage of a three-on-one situation.
Just Matthias Lehmann, the club captain, was missing from the 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg last weekend as Dominique Heintz returned to defense. Head coach Peter Stöger has added one-or-two new faces to the squad in January, whilst tinkering with his team’s shape. The most notable tactical adjustment this year has been to move Jonas Hector, now Germany’s left-back at international level, into one of the central defensive-midfield positions. Hector, a gangly, galloping player in possession, is such a potent option when he attacks from deep.
One point from two games isn’t ideal form for the Billy Goats, but performances haven’t been so bad. What is notable is how much Stöger’s side rely on Anthony Modeste for attacking penetration. The towering center-forward scored in his last three Bundesliga outings, although his nine-game scoring drought in the first half of the season was stark evidence of his importance to Cologne.
On 38 minutes, the 27-year-old Frenchman headed against the bar from around seven yards out. Normally, these are the sort of chances that the former Hoffenheim striker would snap up from inside the penalty box. But three minutes later, the visitors did manage to take the lead: Zoller nudging Johan Djourou off-the-ball and then proceeding to clip the ball past Adler.
Labbadia’s half-time switch to swap Pierre-Michel Lasogga for Artjoms Rudnevs, the scorer of the equalizer last week in Stuttgart, inspired a Hamburg response. Two minutes into the second half, Rudnevs combined with Müller around 25 yards from goal, the former Mainz forward taking the ball under his control and lashing a fierce shot high into the top corner of the net. This surge in confidence going forward was short-lived as Cologne increased its strange hold on the game.
On 57 minutes, Filip Mladenovic, the Serbian winger who joined Cologne from BATE Borisov in January, dribbled across the field before his quick-thinking forced a solid block from Adler. After the hour mark, Marcel Risse’s nicely-judged free-kick from 20 yards out clipped the crossbar despite the Hamburg goalkeeper’s best efforts to keep it off target. Given the speed and intensity at the start of the half, the way the game developed into a damp squib, sorely lacking in quality, will have been a disappointment. But probably not to the traveling supporters who looked in great mood before Cologne’s colorful carnival comes to an end tomorrow. The two teams are separated in the league by three points with Cologne ending the matchday in ninth and Hamburg sitting in 12th-place – four points above the third relegation position.
Darmstadt edged away from the Bundesliga relegation zone with a 2-0 win over Hoffenheim which leaves Huub Stevens’ men in serious danger of going down.
Aytac Sulu and Slobodan Rajkovic earned all three points for Dirk Schuster’s team, who have the third best away record in the Bundesliga this season.
Only Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, who have played one game more away from home, have more than the 17 points Darmstadt have picked up on their travels so far this term.
As a result, they find themselves five points clear of the relegation play-off berth, while Hoffenheim are seven points adrift of safety.
Sunday’s other game saw Hamburg held to a 1-1 draw at home by Cologne.
Simon Zoller put the visitors in front before a Nicolai Muller equaliser gave Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia something to celebrate on his 50th birthday on Monday.
His side nevertheless slipped two places this weekend, with just four points separating them from local rivals Werder Bremen in 16th, while Cologne remain six points behind the top six.
Press Association contributed to this report.