Cologne overcome first leg deficit to remain in Bundesliga

By Nathalia Araujo, dpa

Cologne will remain in the Bundesliga after a 5-1 win away to second division side Holstein Kiel in the promotion play-off second leg on Saturday.

Cologne lost the first game 1-0 at home but overturned the deficit at Kiel in a game that had three goals in the first six minutes.

Jonas Hector broke the deadlock for the visitors with three minutes played and Lee Jae Sung kept Kiel’s hopes alive with the equalizer just a minute later.

But their ambitions were crushed after Sebastian Andersson struck twice and Rafael Czichos added a fourth goal for Cologne shortly before the break.

For the first time in seven months, fans were allowed into Kiel’s stadium and the 2,334 spectators in the stands had to comply with special hygiene measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

But not even their support was able to prompt a reaction from Kiel and Cologne’s party was sealed with a late goal by Ellyes Skhiri in the second half.

“To achieve this one must believe, stand together. We know what Cologne means to the city. The fans weren’t always happy with us, today we wanted to give something back,” Hector told broadcasters DAZN.

Cologne escaped automatic relegation late in the final round of the Bundesliga regular season with a win over relegated Schalke.

Coach Friedhelm Funkel, who took over the Cologne team mid-April with the short-term task to save them from relegation, was “glad we completed this mission.”

“I was naturally nervous, but also well prepared. I knew we had a chance. I enjoyed the past seven weeks,” said Funkel, who will be replaced by Steffen Baumgart next season.

Kiel had been living a fairytale season, knocking out Bayern Munich in the second round of the German Cup and reaching the competition’s semi-finals.

But the team was strongly affected by the coronavirus pandemic as infections among their ranks forced the squad to quarantine twice in March and April.

“When you lose 5-1 there’s not much you can say. Maybe we wanted it so much and we couldn’t play the way we wanted from the start,” Kiel winger Finn Bartels said.

Coach Ole Werner said the team can be proud of the season, but admitted that after the game “it’s all about disappointment

“We played the best season of the club history. At the end it was one miracle too few,” Werner said.

Around 250 Cologne fans travelled to Kiel and four were temporarily arrested because they tried to fire pyrotechnics after the team’s first goal, according to a police spokesperson.

Three Kiel fans were also arrested. Two for threatening journalists and a third one for insulting police officers, the spokesperson said.

All seven fans were released after being identified. In addition, two ambulances had to be called for medical emergencies.

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