Borussia Monchengladbach rebounded from last weekend’s loss with a tight home triumph over FC Koln on Saturday, with youngster Mahmoud Dahoud’s goal enough to separate the teams.
In the 84th Rhine Derby, Andre Schubert’s men dominated the majority of the match and particularly possession, as Koln set up to sit deep and defend, before breaking on the counter. Both sides exchanged chances throughout and came close on occasion, however, Yann Sommer and Timo Horn both had imperious nights in their respective goalmouths.
Dahoud’s winner came off the back of a wonderful passing exchange from the inside right-channel which utilised pockets of space. Raffael played the ball inside to the run of Dahoud, who finished delightfully with the outside of his boot past Horn. The home side were most dangerous down the left for much of the game, as Oscar Wendt’s dangerous deliveries fizzed across the front of the visitors’ goal.
Koln threatened for much of the second-half, particularly through substitute Milos Jojic, who was denied no less than three times by Sommer.
Gladbach starting XI: Sommer; Elvedi, Christensen, Nordtveit, Wendt; Hazard, Dahoud, Xhaka, Johnson; Raffael, Stindl (4-4-2)
Koln starting XI: Horn; Olkowski, Maroh, Heintz, Mldenovic; Hector, Lehmann; Osako, Gerhardt, Bittencourt; Modest (4-2-3-1)
Stindl and Raffael press hard from the front
Evident from the opening kick-off was Gladbach’s desire to chase the ball far and wide, led from the front by Lars Stindl and Raffael. The two forwards hassled and harried the Koln defence whenever they had possession, but were also able to stretch their line and involve the midfield four to allow pressure on the fullbacks as well.
The incessant pressing led to a number of mistakes by the visitors, but also forced more rash passes out of defence, allowing Gladbach to take possession of the ball higher up the pitch than they otherwise may have. After Dahoud’s goal, Die Fohlen appeared to drop out slightly and allow their opponents to try and force a comeback, looking for openings on the counter.
Koln happy to sit back
As much as Die Fohlen made clear their intention to press, the visitors sat obviously deeper from the outset, letting the home side to play further up the pitch and then looking to counter-attack when given the chance. Koln defended with a very flat back four at all times, even when slightly higher, with fullbacks Pawel Olkowski and Filip Mladenovic doing very little in the way of advancing too much further up the flanks.
However, once behind Koln’s approach changed as they began to almost swap roles with the home side. The visitors became more adventurous as the defensive midfield duo of Jonas Hector and Matthias Lehmann looked to drift forward and help pin Gladbach in to their own-half. As with all presses, this left them more exposed to counter-attacks, and Nico Elvedi and Oscar Wendt both looked highly adventurous at fullback for Gladbach.
While Koln’s early defensive surrender cost them in the context of the match, their suitability in switching roles so quickly is easily a positive for Peter Stoger’s side.
Spacing for the goal
Immediately evident in real-time leading up to Gladbach’s goal, and focused on by commentator’s afterwards, was the space available to the home side’s players in the build-up.
The passing sequence including Nico Elvedi, Stindl, Raffael and Dahoud before the goal saw each player move off to create space after their pass. Stindl’s run in particular drew his defender and created confusion, helping to open the absolute paddock that Dahoud found himself in.
The latter’s lung-busting run from deep in midfield was also an important part of it, with the two forwards ahead of him tied up already in the right-hand channel. This awareness is a key to many of Gladbach’s attacks, with the attacking unit working so well as one to always find each other.
Borussia Monchengladbach Conclusion
This win keeps Andre Schubert’s side in fifth place and only outside the Champions League places on goal difference. Gladbach will now travel to Ausgburg next weekend, keen on a repeat of the 4-2 win over them earlier this season. That win kickstarted their incredible run back up the table after five straight losses, and Gladbach fans could be forgiven if they are hoping for a similar endgame.
FC Koln Conclusion
Stoger’s men sit in ninth place on the table, six points outside the Champions League spots, and have now won only once in their five matches in 2016. In danger of falling outside the top-half of the table, Stoger’s side must now face third-placed Hertha next weekend and must try and avoid dropping more points at home, against one of the better away sides in the competition. The second-half will be a big test for Stoger and his men, especially if they dream of European competition next season.