Following an exciting win against Bayern to clinch a spot in the DFB Pokalfinale, Borussia Dortmund failed to build on the moral-boosting win, drawing 0-0 to FC Cologne, who they have not beaten since the Billygoats most recent promotion in 2014.
Dortmund welcomed back Neven Subotic for the first time since his loan to Cologne, while former Dortmunders Leonardo Bittencourt and Milos Jojic also appeared for ‘Effzeh’.
Manager Thomas Tuchel was weary of some tired legs after a grueling fixture list in April, as Lukasz Piszczek and Ousmane Dembele both were left on the bench, while Matthias Ginter and Christian Pulisic returned to the side. Similar to the Bayern game, Dortmund lined up in a back four, with Marcel Schmelzer and Erik Durm as the left and right backs, respectively. Sokratis, who was a doubt before the game, ended up starting but was subbed off in the 74th minute for Piszczek with what may have been a pulled muscle.
Dortmund XI vs Köln: Bürki, Durm, Sokratis, Ginter, Schmelzer, Weigl, Castro, Pulisic, Kagawa, Reus, Aubameyang. #BVBKOE
— Bundesliga Spotlight (@BundesligaSpot) April 29, 2017
The match started brightly for the hosts, as Pulisic looked lively early on, shredding the Cologne defense and flashing a dangerous ball across goal in the early minutes. The 18-year-old American started the game strong but was eventually worn down by Cologne’s tidy defense as the game progressed.
There were no shortage of chances for the black and yellows in the first 25 minutes, but two offside calls ruled out two goals, and Cologne’s blushes were spared. Shinji Kagawa was ever so slightly marked offside before flashing a great ball for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to tap in. Only minutes later, the flag was raised as Marco Reus finished off a Gonzalo Castro header, while goalkeeper Timo Horn was off his line, invoking the second-to-last defender rule to mark Reus offside.
Reus again found himself frustrated after spurning two good chances in the first half. He tried to slide the ball across to Aubameyang around the 15th-minute mark for a simple tap in, but a crucial interception by Subotic and a clearance off the line from Frederik Sorensen spared Cologne. Shortly after, Aubameyang pulled the ball back for Reus, whose shot was fired just over the bar from 10 yards out. The ball was bouncing, making it a difficult chance, but one that Reus would say he should have buried.
Dortmund missed opportunities allowed Cologne to grow into the game, and around the 30th minute, Effzeh were unlucky not to score on their two best chances in the match. Jojic nearly found himself on the scoresheet against his former club, as his shot across goal went just wide. No more than four minutes later, Bittencourt found himself with lots of space in the box but dragged his shot well wide, when he might’ve been better off squaring up teammate Artjoms Rudnevs.
Both teams were left to rue their missed chances, as the second half saw much less action. Dortmund nearly took the lead straight out of the halftime gates, as Reus’ shot was parried into a dangerous area by Horn, but cleared just in the nick of time. It was one of the very few chances Dortmund saw in the second half, as Cologne were organized and did well to not get caught out.
Tuchel called on substitutes Raphael Guerreiro and Ousmane Dembele, who both scored game winners against Gladbach and Bayern in previous games, to work their magic again. Dembele was oozing with confidence after his winner against Bayern as he chipped a ball over the defense and into Castro’s path, but the 29-year-old midfielder decided to attempt to chest it to Aubameyang, when he might have been better off taking the shot himself.
Cologne barely mustered any sort of attack in the second half, challenging Dortmund to break down their lines. The breakthrough was nearly made in the dying seconds of the game, as a floating cross from Lukasz Piszczek found the head of Guerreiro, whose header was just about to sneak into the bottom corner until a world class save was made by goalkeeper Timo Horn, as the game finished 0-0.
Dortmund’s missed chances in the first half came back to bite, and manager Thomas Tuchel was clearly less than pleased. The manager called in the players into the changing room before any interviews were allowed. Cologne defended very well in the second half, but ultimately were lucky to come with a point, with Dortmund’s expected goals tally at 2.66, compared to Cologne’s 0.33.
Deservedly so, Neven Subotic received quite the ovation after the match from the Sudtribune. The former Dortmund centre-back was a valuable member of the 2012 double-winning team, and the 2013 Champions League finalists, and never received a proper send-off from the club.
— Stefan Buczko (@StefanBuczko) April 29, 2017
With the one point, Dortmund clinched Champions League football for next season and moved two points ahead of fourth-place Hoffenheim, who play Eintracht Frankfurt tomorrow. Next week, Hoffenheim will travel to the Westfalenstadion, for an important game that will have huge implications on the fight for third place.