1. FC Köln / Bundesliga / football / Germany / soccer / Sports

1. FC Köln Seals “Fall Champion” Title

As far as the matter of which club would sit atop the second league at the end of the Hinrunde, the final matchday of the season’s first half came to a close on Saturday, when a dominant home performance by 1. FC Köln resulted in a 2:0 victory, assuring that results from Sunday and Monday matches would have no impact on who could call themselves Herbstmeister.

Being in first place at the halfway point of the season is, of course, virtually meaningless. Plus, let’s face it, even maintaining a first place finish at the end of the season is more exciting for the promotion prize it brings with it than for the title itself.

Even so, if you get the chance to celebrate a benchmark, you celebrate it.

More worthy of celebration, for me, is simply another victory. Despite ending the two-match goalless losing streak in Hamburg the matchday prior, the first half was littered with classic signs of one of those head-shakers, where the Billy Goats dominate play but fail to convert chances, leaving the door open for opposition to steal all three points with just one good break.

FSV Frankfurt had a few chances in the first half, but they were fairly innocuous. The Effzeh sniffed around the Frankfurt goal several times in the opening 45 minutes, but came away empty. When Patrick Helmes (YET AGAIN!) drilled the crossbar on a shot you have to think was destined for the netting had it come off anyone else’s foot, I felt I could hear the ghost of tens of thousands collectively throwing their hands in the air in frustration with the involuntarily exhalation of the disappointed “OH!” even though I was watching the match several hours later via FC-TV’s re-live.

Then, when a pass coming out of the defensive area (was it Matzelinho?) struck the referee and deflected into FSV possession, the following chance on goal seemed fated to be the knife in the back.

Is it our place as Effzeh fans to think so fatalistically, or is it just me? I don’t wish to imply I didn’t have faith in the guys on the pitch, rather that it sometimes seem there is a combination of not-quite-sharp-enough finishing and bad luck that sometimes makes things more difficult than they appear.

Plus, it’s the nature of such a low-scoring sport that sometimes the results don’t quite reflect the nature of the match. My sense is that the sports I’ve followed my whole life generally play out that way far more infrequently, so I am still making peace with this and hope such anxieties will pass.

But then Yannick Gerhardt and Marcel Risse each put well-placed shots onto goal with both parried away by FSV keeper Patric Klandt.

Oh, MAN! Just brutal.

Making things worse was that Saturday morning featured a birthday party for one of my older son’s friends, leaving me several hours between first- and second-half viewings. So, while the distraction of preschool-age children running amok in an old airplane hangar full of bounce houses was welcome, the scoreless first half continued to gnaw at the back of my mind from late morning into early afternoon.

Fortunately, Pope Anthony the First did not let the second half linger in limbo for too long. turning a Risse pass from near the goal line past Klandt and sending showers of relief over people like me who’d let the lack of a first goal develop into a mini-crisis.

The relief was so great, in fact, that I was no longer that worried when the continued parade of chances continued to remain only chances, though I was fairly irritated that the Gerhardt header was cancelled by a questionable officiating decision to call Ujah for a foul on Klandt. I won’t get too far into it without really knowing the rules, officiate sports here, so I know that it’s often a lack of understanding the rules that causes fans and commentators to question decisions. Even so, the fair result of the play seemed like the goal should have stood. Klandt put himself into Ujah’s path with no shot at playing the ball, in my opinion.

But, again, I should probably read FIFA’s rules book before thinking I really know what’s up.

Funnily enough, after all the great chances resulted in nothing, Risse launched a ball goalwards in the 84th minute that seemed like it would be fairly harmless, but was struck and placed well enough to close the matter and give the home side the two-goal lead that seemed like it was coming for the better part of the previous half-hour.

But it never seemed needed. Once the lead was attained, the FSV looked beaten and out of place because their opponent was dominating the ball, ending the day with 65% of the time of possession.

Now, the first half of the season is finished with 1. FC Köln atop the league, but two matches remain before the break. While I will remain resolute in downplaying the importance of placement this far from the finish line, I have to say it would be a lovely Christmas gift to avenge the draw in Dresden, not to mention the douchebaggery of one Benny Kirsten, who mugged Roman Golobart with no repercussions.

Of course, the bigger box under the tree will be the return of the long-lost derby with a trip to Düsseldorf just before the holiday. While it would be difficult to say that, unlike the Dresden match, the Effzeh deserved better from the run of play, a victory there would be a nice punctuation mark on the gap built between the two clubs in the table.

Not to sour all Düsseldorfers holidays, but definitely those several who have taken opportunities to launch barbs in the direction of the #effzeh folk on Twitter (and the opportunities have been few, of course). I’d certainly enjoy smugly knowing they’re sitting as low in the second-league table this year as they did for much of last year in the first league, maybe giving them a bit of the same anxiety I feel on matchday, but, for them, it revolving more about survival in the second league, rather than just keeping atop the promotion chase.

That’d be some pretty sweet Christmas schadenfreude, oder?

Mach’s gut! and Come on Effzeh!

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