1. FC Köln vs 1. FC Augsburg 3 – 0: Efficient Köln beat Augsburg with ease

Lukas Podolski’s left foot lifts Köln out of the relegation zone.

Both teams returned to the pitch after their mid-week action in the cup. Augsburg defeated fourth tier side RB Leipzig with a lucky 1-0 away victory, while Köln lost away to Hoffenheim 1-2. Köln coach Ståle Solbakken trusted the same starting XI he fielded in mid-week, which has been a rare sight so far this year considering that Köln had 8 different back lines in their first ten matches of the season.

Köln was hoping to bounce back after two losses in a row in the league against one of their favorite opponents. The Billy Goats had not lost once in their four matches against Augsburg in the 2. Bundesliga. Better yet, Augsburg had failed to score more than one goal since their 2-2 season opener against Freiburg. Köln were on their other hand are the most efficient team in the league, taking 39.5% of their chances.

Line-ups:

1. FC Köln: Rensing – Brecko, Sereno, Jemal, Eichner – Lanig(Matuschyk 66’), Riether – Clemens(Roshi 66’), Jajalo(Pezzoni 73’), Pezko – Podolski

1. FC Augsburg: Jentzsch – Reinhardt, Möhrle(Sankoh 5’/Gogia 45’), Langkamp, Hosogai – Callsen-Bracker, Davids – Baier, Brinkmann(Oehrl 64’), Bellinghausen – Mölders

First half: Podolski’s brace decides the game before half time

Both coaches lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, the most commonly used formation in the Bundesliga these days. Köln Jajalo had in previous games teamed up with Lukas Podolski up front, effectively turning Köln’s formation into a 4-2-2-2, but against Augsburg Solbakken gave Jajalo more of a play making role behind Podolski. Sascha Riether returned to holding midfield after his stint at right back against Dortmund. Augsburg coach had brought on 9 new players compared to the cup tie against Leipzig. The Dutchmen instructed his team to wait for counter attacks, and gave Bellinghausen and the very active Baier more defensive duties than usual, often times turning Augsburg’s formation into a 4-4-1-1 formation when the team was defending.

Centre forward Sascha Mölders main task in the first few minutes was to keep hold of the ball and allow his team mates to come after. This worked well in the first few minutes, and Augsburg created a number of half chances during the first few minutes of the match.

Mölders won only 8 of his 24 duels.

Luhukay’s defensive tactics hindered Köln in their attack minded approach for the first few minutes of the match. The first note worthy situation came after 11 minutes when Lukas Podolski’s cross from the left hit the hand of Augsburg’s defender Sankoh. Referee Peter Gagelmann signaled that the hand ball was unintentional, and let play continue, and rightly so.

Podolski got his sweet revenge eight minutes later when he received the ball 35 meters in front of goal. The German international took a whole-hearted run at the Augsburg’s defense, rounded Sankoh and placed the ball beautifully into the goal from a narrow angle. The replay showed that Simon Jentzsch probably could have done better.

Three minutes later Clemens went down after a challenge from Hosogai in the penalty area. Peter Gagelmann did not make any new friends in Bavaria after he decided to give Köln a penalty. Hosogai did in fact make contact with Clemens, but the midfielder was already falling when he did so. Wrongly given or not, Lukas Podolski made it 2-0 with a well placed shot. Köln had at this point had two chances and taken them both.

The second goal was also the last note worthy chance of the first half. Augsburg didn’t manage to come back from this sucker punch, while Köln seemed happy to sit on their lead.

Second half: Augsburg’s switch formation with limited effect

Jos Luhukay gave the hardest punishment a sub can receive to Sankoh after the half time break: He took him off and replaced the him with Gogia, bringing on another midfielder for a defender. Luhukay’s thinking behind this was to change the formation drastically when the team was in possession: Instead of a 4-2-3-1, Augsburg now tried a 3-3-3-1 formation when in possession. The team did the same to great effect against Werder Bremen last week. Midfielder Davids was put on left back when Köln was in possession, effectively making the team return to a 4-2-3-1 formation when the opposition had the ball.

This did not trouble Köln too much in the beginning of the second half though. Brinkmann had a crack at goal from 18 meters after 47 minutes, but he skied the ball towards row Z of the RheinEnergie Stadium.

Nine minutes later the game got all but decided, when Augsburg’s defense was caught ball watching after a cross into the area. David’s tried to clear the ball, but found only Peszko. The Polish international danced around two of Augsburg’s defenders who were watching him in awe, and placed the ball into the net from 6 meters.

Augsburg created one more chance in the 75th minute, when Gogia got to finish an attack from inside the penalty area, beating Rensing unfortunately only hitting the post. Just moments later substitute Thorsten Oehrl put a brutal challenge from behind into Sascha Riether’s left leg, and got himself sent off.

Augsburg were outran today by Köln. The red card for Oehrl didn't effect this stat significantly, because it came at such a late stage.

Köln managed to get three of their five shots on target, scoring on all three of those. Augsburg on their hand shot 15 times, missing the goal 10 times. 7 of Augsburg’s shots came from outside the penalty area. The simple truth of the matter is that Augsburg simply lacked the individual quality Köln had in their side, and the ruthlessness in front of goal that Solbakken’s men presented today.

Conclusion: Köln slowly getting out of the relegation fight, Augsburg relegation fodder

Köln showed once again why they are the most effective side in the league in front of goal. The team had three decent chances in the first half, and got two goals. Podolski was once again in his stride, producing at times mesmerizing moments on the pitch. Köln have taken 16 points from the first 11 matches of the season. Last year the Billy Goats struggled in the early stages of the season, and had only 15 points after the first half of the season was over. Köln now face a re-energized Werder Bremen side and a Mainz team in crisis in their next two matches. Solbakken’s men should be able to get a result in both those matches. To put Köln’s start to the season into perspective: At this stage of the season last year Köln fired their Zvonomir Soldo.

Augsburg are still looking very much like a side that is set to go down. The team hasn’t scored more than one goal in the games they have played since their season opening against Freiburg. The team is currently not putting in enough of a fight to get the all important wins they need to get off the bottom of the table. Augsburg are the side that does the least amount of running in the league, which is surprising considering the fact that spirited fighting is the only way to go if the team doesn’t want to end the season rock bottom. Bild wrote last week that Augsburg is interested in loaning some of Bayern’s players for the second half of the season. A good move, considering the inherent lack of quality in the current squad. The winter break can’t probably come soon enough for Jos Luhukay.

Heat map: Podolski covered 9.8 km today, and was essential for Köln today.

Man of the match: Lukas Podolski

When Köln do well their former captain Podolski always seems to have a good day. Today was not different in that regard, two goals and one assist means that the German international was involved in all three goals of the match. Podolski was happy to drop deep, even back into his own half, helping his team defensively and being a vital part of the build up play of his side. The fan favorite seems to thrive under Solbakken, and he is going to be vital for his team for the rest of the season.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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