Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. 1. FC Köln 3–0: The Foals spoil Schaefer’s return.

Two minutes of magic in the second half and a brilliant Arango free kick secure the win in the Rhine derby for Gladbach.

Frank Schaefer is the man who is supposed to rescure Köln from relegation in the last four matches of the season. Today’s task away against Borussia Mönchengladbach was a difficult opponent on paper for the team from the Cathedral city. Three losses in the last three matches between the sides, and a goal difference of 12-1 in favor of The Foals speaks a clear language about how Köln has fared against their arch rivals.

Borussia Mönchengladbach have won 43 times against their struggling opponents, scoring a total of 163 against them. However, despite their great season so far, Gladbach have gone through a dry spell in recent weeks, only taking two points from the last five matches. A couple of weeks ago it was already looking like The Foals already had secured a Champions League finish, but Stuttgart’s strong run of 9 unbeaten games in a row has brought the Swabians within 4 points of Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Line up and tacitcs

Frank Schaefer stuck to their usual 4-4-2 formation, but tweaked it a little bit. Instead of solely relaying on Solbakken’s tactics of having two lines of four players trying to close down the room, forcing the opposition to make a mistake in their build up, Schaefer chose to vary and ordered his players to be higher up the pitch pressing off the ball, at times changing the formation to a 4-5-1 system. Schaefer probably considered make shift right back Martin Stranzl as Gladbach’s weak point, and ordered left back Christian Eichner to push higher up the pitch than usual, to catch Stranzl off guard. Schaefer chose also to included Peszko and Novakovic in his starting line up, after Solbakken had removed the pair of them from the squad due to their behavior in recent weeks.

Lucien Favre gave Mike Hanke a free and mobile role, allowing the striker to link up with Marco Reus and Juan Arango.

First half: Beautiful Arango free kick putting Gladbach ahead

The game was only three minutes young when a beautiful cross across the pitch from Filip Daem’s found Mike Hanke on the right hand side of the box. The former German international chose to take the ball on the volley, forcing Michael Rensing to make an excellent safe. Borussia Mönchengladbach maintained their early pressure, only allowing Köln one shot in the first ten minutes. Lukas Podolski had skied the ball from more than 25 meters in the 9th minute.

Just has Köln seemingly had weathered the storm, Martin Lanig fouled Marco Reus unnecessarily and gave away a free kick 20 meters in front of goal. Juan Arango placed the ball beautifully in the bottom of the right hand corner, never leaving Michael Rensing a chance to catch this hard and well placed free kick.

Gladbach managed to produce to more noteworthy chances as the half progressed, but were kept out by two brilliant stops of former Bayern man Michael Rensing. First Reus didn’t fully connect with a Hanke cross in the 22nd minute, but the future Dortmund man somehow managed to lob the ball towards the goal from 14 meters, forcing Michael Rensing into full stretch. Five minutes before the half time whistle Köln defender Sereno lost the ball after being hassled by Reus, who quickly passed the ball to Mike Hanke after he had won the ball for Gladbach. 12 meters in front of goal, alone with the Rensing, Hanke only managed to hit the goalkeeper with his poorly placed shot.

Second half: The Billy Goats taken apart within two minutes

Even though the FC haven’t managed to turn come back from being 1-0 against Gladbach since 1983, the Billy Goats came out with all guns blazing in the second half. First Cristian Clemens managed to take himself into the Gladbach box from his left hand side, firing off a shot which Marc Andre ter Stegen only managed to clear over the bar. The following corner produced a double chance, but the Gladbach defense was able to block both Novakovic’s and Podolski’s shot from short distance in the 47th minute.

Gladbach was more effective in this vital part of the game. Marco Reus found the Toni Jantschke with a free kick in the box. The substitute headed the ball towards the goal and squeezed it past Michael Rensing in the 53rd minute. Two minutes later it was Reus who managed to pull off an impressive solo run, going past three Köln defenders, playing the ball through the legs of both Sereno and Germoel, before he hit the ball past Rensing.

Köln never got back from this hammer blow, while Gladbach managed to create a few more chances as the game progressed.

Final verdict: Epic struggle ahead for Köln

Borussia Mönchengladbach managed to get back the 7 point gap that separates them from Stuttgart, and are now only one point behind Schalke on third. Lucien Favre’s team look like they have secured a Champions League spot, the only question in need of answering seems to be if Gladbach finish in 3rd or 4th.

Köln on the other hand might have left the coaching change a little bit too late. Frank Schaefer has only been given four games to rescue the team from relegation, and now the team has to overcome a four point gap up to Augsburg, who have a vastly superior goal differences compared to the team from cathedral city. The three last matches of the campaign sees Köln taking on Stuttgart, Freiburg and Bayern. Hertha are on their hand only point behind Köln, and have Kaiserslautern, Schalke and Hoffenheim left. As things stand, one would expect these two sites to battle for the relegation play off spot, while the likes of Augsburg and Hamburg can slowly start to plan for another season in the top flight.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-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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