Sports

Significant Europa League win gives Cologne hope for the future

Cologne fans will be hoping that Thursday night's 5-2 victory over BATE Borisov can kick-start a disappointing season. DW's Matt Ford was at the RheinEnergieStadion and saw how rapidily the mood can change in football.

Europa League 1. FC Köln Bate Borissow (Reuters/W. Rattay)

"Fünf!" screamed the Cologne fans hanging from the fences at the front of the south stand, eyes wide in disbelief and fingers outstretched to emphasize the point. "Five!"

In 90 minutes against BATE Borisov on Thursday night, their team had found the net more times than they had done in ten Bundesliga matches this season combined and recorded their first win on the international stage in 25 years.

Two hours earlier, the mood on the banks of the Rhine had been very different. The euphoria of the club's long-awaited return to Europe last May and the traveling carnival which descended on London in September had long since dissipated. In the dark and drizzle outside the stadium, black market sellers were struggling to give away spare tickets for the visit of the Belorussian champions.

Read more: Cologne fans descend on London for return to European football

With three defeats from three, Cologne had looked doomed at the bottom of Europa League Group H and when BATE scored twice in two minutes to cancel out Simon Zoller's opener, an inevitable sense of despair enveloped the stadium.

Despair turns to hope

But after a rampant second-half display saw the hosts seal a 5-2 victory, Cologne are now only two points behind second-place Red Star Belgrade with two games to play and a glimmer of hope has returned. How the mood can change in football.

Read more: Cologne win big at home

Zoller, who was only fourteen months old when Frank Ordenewitz scored Cologne's last international goal at home 9,178 days ago, spoke of the relief in the squad. "In our current situation, it really doesn't matter who scores the goals," he told dpa afterwards. "But if someone had told me a few years ago that I would be playing and scoring in the Europa League, I would have laughed!"

For all the European euphoria however, fans will be hoping above all that the historic win can have a revitalizing effect on their team's domestic form. Cologne haven't always played poorly in the Bundesliga this season and they do create chances but desolate finishing has left Peter Stöger's side without a win in ten games.

The fans' exclamations of "five!" could just have easily referred to the number of points their team are away from safety at the bottom of the table.

Europa League Istanbul Basaksehir Hoffenheim (Reuters/M. Sezer)

Hoffenheim endured a tough trip to Turkey

A long week for Hoffenheim

Their opponents on Sunday, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, faced an arduous journey to Turkey where they they conceded an injury-time equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Istanbul Basaksehir. Julian Nagelsmann's side have struggled to balance European duties with their domestic obligations so far this season and, with a squad weakened by the departures of Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, haven't won in the Bundesliga since Matchday six.

Competing on multiple fronts appears to be taking its toll on the Kraichgauer and they will be without a number of key players in Cologne with defender Kevin Vogt now added to an injury list which already includes Mark Uth, Serge Gnabry, Adam Szalai and Benjamin Hübner.

On their last visit to Cologne back in April, a 1-1 draw secured European football for Hoffenheim for the first time in the club's history, crowning the village club's astronomic rise up the leagues fueled by investor Dietmar Hopp's billions.

But coming off the back of Thursday night, Cologne will be confident of a first league win of the season which could see the fans making "five" gestures again at full time. Perhaps not five more goals, but five Bundesliga points.

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