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Köln conjure a comeback for ages in quest to complete multiple miracles | Bundesliga


borussia dortmund may have done this The Bundesliga proud this week. They did FC Köln no favors on Saturday night. After the Champions League finalists’ meek 3-0 defeat by Mainz, Edin Terzic and Marko Reus were coy and apologetic, with the coach bemoaning the display as “the face we’ve shown too often this season”.

No matter. It takes a lot to dampen the spirits of people from Cologne anytime but this saturday? Nothing would quench the fire in their hearts. Theirs Ephesus had snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat in a way that stunned a stadium and a city where people want to believe that anything, anything is possible. They couldn’t believe it. “We were already relegated,” defender Timo Hubers told Sky afterwards. “We were mentally and physically exhausted.”

Hubers is not exaggerating. His team was ready, still trailing at home to Union Berlin with just over three minutes of normal time remaining and knowing that only a win would do it. And they had only managed four of them before in a difficult season plagued by injuries, a transfer ban, a beloved coach forced to take leave and the lowest goals scored of any team in the Bundesliga. A fairy tale, however improbable, usually needs a hero, wit, ingenuity, and for a long time Cologne seemed to have none of these ingredients.

What happened next may slide down the page and become a mere footnote in history if, as we have been expecting for weeks, if not months, FC Köln are relegated from the Bundesliga for the seventh time in history same time next week If it supports them? People will retell the stories over constantly refilled glasses of Kölsch in Birkelers for decades. And they will not need to embellish a bit, because the ordinary truth is extraordinary enough.

Cologne fans celebrate after beating Union Berlin. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Steffen Tigges’ equalizer, scored after Mark Uth’s miscue, already felt like Ephesus attack running at max. In the dozen games preceding this one, Köln had only scored twice more than once, in the 3-3 derby draw at Borussia Mönchengladbach and in the equally miraculous late, late win over Bochum. The remaining 10 matches brought just five goals. Yet as stoppage-time ticked away, seconds after András Šafer had missed a very good chance to put the visitors back in front, Linton Maina found the energy to head for the line once more, pick up the ball and Damien Downes – 19, and still start Bundesliga game for the club – nodded at home to the Südkurve to cause pandiosis. Even the usually reserved coach Timo Schulz joined the pile-on.

Susceptible, vulnerable opponents in the Union certainly helped. A team that had crumbled under the heightened strains of Champions League action in the first half of the season appeared to have saved itself on the strength of its Koepenik home until the spring, but in recent weeks has slipped back into the fold. The club made the decision to sack Nenad Bielica as coach in the week with just two games remaining this season. The short, sharp shock appeared to have worked as Union took a two-goal lead in the first 20 minutes. The Berliners now face an extremely nervous final day of a season that began with so much hope.

In isolation, this comeback would be extraordinary, but Cologne looked buried for weeks. The last home game with Freiburg, in which they were full of desire but lacking in craft, looked like the end. The rousing reception the Südkurve gave his team after Friday night’s previous home game with Leipzig was more of a wake-up call than motivation, the evidence is clear. The opposition were excellent but they only needed to be so sporadic to win at a gallop. This FC Köln was simply not good enough for the top league.

Teenager Damien Downes celebrates after scoring the last goal in the 3-2 win. Photo: Thilo Schmülgen/Reuters

But here they are, without much improvement in the interim — “the last few weeks,” Schultz said, “only the other teams have been able to play for us. Now we were able to play for ourselves.” Their managing director, Christian Keller, looked like a nervous wreck from the sidelines. A bespectacled Jonas Hector, the captain who retired at the end of last season and whom they missed so much, stood with clenched teeth and fists in the stands, EphesusThe version of Maradona watching as a Boca fan. And on the other side was a shell-shocked Marco Grote, left holding the baby as Union caretaker manager for the second time this season and looking ashen-faced ahead of their meeting with fate next week.

Because this is not the last miracle Cologne will need. On the final day of the season, they will need to win again at Heidenheim and hope Union lose their home game to Freiburg. Even then, they won’t be safe, with a two-legged play-off against Fortuna Dusseldorf to be arranged and one senses that the gap between top-tier strugglers and second-tier hopefuls isn’t as wide as it usually is. often destroying any tension. Yet in this club, in this city, hope springs eternal. As always.

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Bochum 0-5 Leverkusen, Bayern Munich 2-0 Wolfsburg, Darmstadt 0-6 Hoffenheim, Mainz 3-0 Borussia Dortmund, Cologne 3-2 Union Berlin, Freiburg 1-1 Heidenheim, Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig 1 -1 Werder Bremen, Augsburg 0-1 Stuttgart.

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Dortmund’s lethargic home return was in stark contrast to their winners Mainz, who hit their visitors with three goals in the opening 23 minutes and highlighted their astonishing improvement under Bo Henriksen (they haven’t lost after the 1:8 defeat by Bayern in early March), sparking celebrations on the pitch and in the stands. The result ensures the 05ers can’t be relegated outright and, barring a goal difference miracle, a point from Wolfsburg on the final day will ensure they miss out on a play-off spot as well. BVB’s loss means Leipzig have mathematically moved into fourth place, although fan displeasure over Marco Rose’s unadventurous tactics in the 1-1 home draw with Werder Bremen is worth keeping an eye on.

What better therapy for Bayern after their agonizing Champions League exit than a visit to their bunnies Wolfsburg? They were without the injured Harry Kane – surely ending any slim chance he had of eclipsing Robert Lewandowski’s single-season Bundesliga goalscoring record – but eased home 2-0 with teenager Lovro Zvonarek scoring just over three minutes into the first your start in the Bundesliga.

We now know the two automatically promoted teams in the Bundesliga; Holstein Kiel’s draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday sent them into the top division for the first time, while St. Pauli’s comfortable 3-1 win over relegated Osnabrück not only sealed their promotion back to the Bundesliga after a 13-year absence but left them top position position to win the Bundesliga 2 title on the last day of the season.

St. Pauli’s players celebrate surrounded by thousands of fans after confirming their promotion to the Bundesliga. Photo: Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection/Getty Images

After 12-and-a-half years in charge of the first team, Christian Streich took charge of Freiburg for one final home game, an emotional 1-1 draw with Heidenheim. A banner in the stands read “loyalität und ehrlichkeit, leider eine seltenheit” (loyalty and honesty, unfortunately rare). Streich is unique and will be missed not only by Freiburg fans. He could still sign, taking the club back into European competition for what would be an unprecedented third season in a row, with the twist being that SCF’s poor goal difference means they may need to win at the Union to be safe .

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