An outpouring of emotion at FC Köln is always taken with a pinch of salt by the rest of German football. It’s boom or bust, on top of the world or on hands and knees on the floor. This was the former, with local boy and goalscorer Mark Uth telling Sky at full time he’d be lobbying Steffen Baumgart for “two days off and a beer,” a request that was swiftly validated. “If he’s asking for it,” said Baumgart, “he’ll definitely get it.” Yet even in the glow of derby day victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach this felt like something a little different.
Seeing the coach be so accommodating wasn’t the greatest surprise. Normally stoic on the touchline in his trademark flat cap – even when top scorer Anthony Modeste whips it from his head and attempts to instigate a samba with him – Baumgart had willingly approached the Südkurve and (literally) tipped his hat to the supporters. The occasion called for it and since arriving in the Cathedral City, Baumgart has very rarely misjudged the temperature.
After an afternoon in which his Köln team showed exactly how well they have absorbed their coach’s credo, there was more than the result to celebrate, even if that is well worth making the most of. In the recent past of this fixture Effzeh wins have been rarities and mischievously snatched from under the noses of their betters – February’s victory at Borussia-Park was a smash-and-grab and the last game they won for two and a half months, while the previous derby win almost three years before had been pilfered by a Simon Terodde winner deep into stoppage time. Yes, this was very different.
There was the energy, snap and enterprise – not just sticking together and hanging on – that’s been there for the majority of the season and, if the football gods had been slightly kinder might have yielded a few more points than the above-par total that Köln already have. They had their setbacks, such as no concrete reward for their early excellent play and the loss of inspirational captain Jonas Hector to injury early in the second half.
Even after taking the lead via Dejan Ljubicic – and what an emphatic first goal for the club it was – Baumgart’s team flirted with disappointment. When the in-form Jonas Hoffmann struck a stylish equaliser with 16 minutes left – Gladbach had hit the woodwork twice by this point – there looked like being only one winner. Yet Effzeh dug deep and found a response. When Uth picked up a surprisingly wayward pass from Florian Neuhaus just outside the Gladbach area, he needed no second bidding to drill in a shot that smacked the inside of the post on its way in, giving Yann Sommer no chance. The substitutes behind the goal, equally, required no invitation to pile on to the pitch and mob their man.
It was hard for anyone not of a Gladbach persuasion not to feel good for Uth. Here on loan in 2020, he had been a rare beacon of hope in a freefalling team and would have loved to stay and help Köln recover, but there weren’t the funds to prise him permanently from Schalke. So he returned to a club that didn’t want him to be tarred with the brush of an inevitable relegation at the imploding Königsblauen. That did at least pave the way, eventually, for an affordable return to Cologne.
Uth’s impact had Baumgart’s touch on it, though, with both the former and Sebastian Andersson going on as substitutes to score, along with Ondrej Duda, in Effzeh’s closing-stage flurry which earned them a 4-1 win and left the visitors in a spin – everything is coming off for the boss right now. With debutant goalkeeper Marvin Schwäbe stepping up and lending a big hand, it is no wonder the locals are eating out of Baumgart’s hand.
Uth, naturally, had a final word for those supporters. “When the Südtribüne is dancing, laughing, singing, drinking, there’s no better feeling for us as players. We’re unbeaten at home because we are a force together with the fans.” This time, under Baumgart’s steady hand, they may even continue to be so.
Borussia Dortmund enjoyed a sliver of light after a miserable European week in which they were eliminated from the Champions League at Sporting though having been pleased to see Wolfsburg on the horizon, it must have seemed like a genuinely terrible few days was in store when they went a goal down in the second minute to opponents that never beat them and a striker, Wout Weghorst, who never scores against them. No matter – Dortmund reacted strongly with Emre Can and Donyell Malen goals before Erling Haaland made a quicker-than-expected return as substitute to clinch the win. His return is a huge boost ahead of next Saturday’s Klassiker with Bayern, whom they trail by just a point.
BVB briefly leapfrogged Bayern at the summit as the champions hosted Arminia Bielefeld in Saturday’s late game but experienced a closer call than expected in retaking Bundesliga leadership, with Leroy Sané’s spectacular winning goal arriving in the last 20 minutes with frustration building. The main topic after the game, however, continued to be the raucous general meeting in which shareholders loudly heckled the board for shutting down dissent against Qatar Airways’ sponsorship of the club. “We will learn from it [the reaction],” said Oliver Kahn, not entirely convincingly.
Leipzig experienced the opposite of Dortmund when, having extracted a much-needed result from a trip to Club Brugge in some style in the Champions League, were brought crashing back down to earth in an empty Red Bull Arena (due to Saxony’s health restrictions) against Leverkusen. With no support, no Jesse Marsch – quarantining – and a much-depleted defence, the home side were led a merry dance orchestrated by Florian Wirtz, with the teen scoring a sublime opener to set Gerardo Seoane’s side on the way to a fully deserved win.
Greuther Fürth took the lead at home for the first time this season in what turned out to be a nine-goal thriller with Hoffenheim. Unfortunately they only scored three of them, and Ilhas Bebou’s hat-trick leaves the Kleeblätter with just a single point going into December. To rub salt into the wounds their former long-serving left-back, and now Germany international, David Raum chipped in a pair of assists for the visitors having received a great reception before kick-off.
The cruellest blow for Hertha, with Michael Gregoritsch heading a 97th-minute equaliser for Augsburg at Olympiastadion, proved a decisive one. On Monday morning they fired Pal Dardai – and less predictably announced Tayfun Korkut as his replacement at the same time, a coach with a (let’s be nice) mixed Bundesliga record who hasn’t coached anyone in over three years, and he is tasked with steering the Berliners away from a precarious position just a point above the drop zone.
After becoming the last side to be beaten in this season’s Bundesliga, Freiburg have now lost three in a row, going down 2-1 at Bochum. They had played well and led but ultimately became the latest team undone by Milos Pantovic, who scored from way, way out for the second straight home game for the improving hosts.