Bottom side Cologne are on the brink of relegation to Bundesliga 2, despite a spirited fightback to earn a 2-2 draw at home to high-flying Schalke on Sunday.
Cologne 2-2 Schalke
Goals: 0-1 Embolo (4'), 0-2 Konoplyanka (23'), 1-2 Bittencourt (26'), 2-2 Risse (84')
The hosts knew anything other than a win would leave them needing snookers to avoid the drop, but their plans were thrown into chaos during a disastrous opening quarter to the game. Yevhen Konoplyanka raced clear to set up Breel Embolo for the opener inside five minutes, before the Ukraine international then nutmegged Jorge Mere and curled in a fine finish from a tight angle. Their side two goals down in torrential rain at the RheinEnergieStadion, the Cologne support must have feared a long afternoon indeed, but Leonardo Bittencourt gave them hope when he halved the deficit with a neat near-post finish, completely against the run of play.
One goal in it was how it stayed until the break, though Schalke should have extended their lead, with the irrepressible Konoplyanka lashing a shot against the inside of the post and then chipping straight at Timo Horn after running the length of the field. The second half was a more scrappy affair, but that suited Cologne, who did well to stay in contention and might have levelled through Simon Terodde, who shot straight at Ralf Fährmann.
Schalke failed to make the most of numerous good positions as they went in search of a third goal, and they were pegged back when Marcel Risse thumped in his first goal of the season with a free-kick from fully 40 yards. The fans roared their team on to the last, but a third goal eluded Stefan Ruthenbeck's side, who remain eight points adrift of the play-off spot with just nine left to play for.
- Schalke have now scored in 25 Bundesliga matches in a row.Embolo's goal was the fastest scored by a Schalke player since Nabil Bentaleb's 4th-minute penalty against Stuttgart on Matchday 4.Konoplyanka has scored in consecutive Bundesliga matches for the first time.Bittencourt scored in consecutive league games for the first time in over two years.Risse notched his first Bundesliga goal since he scored with a similarly brilliant free-kick away at Borussia Mönchengladbach on 19 November 2016.Cologne are facing their sixth relegation from the Bundesliga, following four successive seasons of top-flight football.The Billy Goats have just taken four points from their last seven games, and have dropped points from winning positions in six games under Ruthenbeck, leaving them potentially 15 points worse off.Ralf Fährmann has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his 12 Bundesliga matches against Cologne.There has not been a goalless draw in this fixture since March 1996, and none at all in the 42 Bundesliga meetings in Cologne.
Watch: Horn: "You only get support like this in Cologne"
Cologne: Horn - Heintz, Mere, Sörensen (Maroh 32') - Handwerker (Cordoba 79'), Özcan (Koziello 62'), Hector, Höger, Risse - Bittencourt, Terodde
Substitutes: Kessler, Jojic, Osako, Cordoba, Pizarro, Koziello
Absentees: Queiros (back), Guirassy (ankle), Zoller (thigh)
Coach: Stefan Ruthenbeck
Schalke: Fährmann - Stambouli, Naldo, Kehrer - Caligiuri, McKennie, Goretzka, Oczipka - Konoplyanka (Bentaleb 64'), Di Santo (Harit 85') - Embolo (Burgstaller 46')
Substitutes: Nübel, Meyer, Bentaleb, Burgstaller, Teuchert, Harit, Schöpf
Absentees: Nastasic (knee ligament)
Coach: Domenico Tedesco
As it happened: