Cologne took a major step towards playing European football next season after beating top-six rivals Werder Bremen 4-3 in a thrilling encounter at the RheinEnergieSTADION on Matchday 32.
Cologne 4-3 Werder Bremen
With Simon Zoller restored to the starting line-up for the first time in over a month, Cologne made the more enterprising start. After Leonardo Bittencourt shot wide, Anthony Modeste gave the hosts the lead from close-range following a corner. Bittencourt doubled the advantage soon after, glancing a header in from Lukas Klünter's excellent right-wing cross. Stung into a response, Bremen came out of their shells and cut the deficit when Fin Bartels, clean through, dinked a lovely finish over the onrushing Timo Horn. Theodor Gebre Selassie then levelled proceedings with a fine header, but Zoller lobbed Felix Wiedwald to put the Billy-Goats back in the driving seat before the interval.
When Modeste scored with an excellent low finish to beat Wiedwald at his near post two minutes into the second half, it looked as if the hosts would remain in the driving seat. Just as they did after going two goals down in the first half, however, Bremen bounced back again when Serge Gnabry scored with a fine finish from Bartels' low cross. The Green-Whites threw the kitchen sink at Cologne in the hunt for another equaliser in the final 20 minutes, but Peter Stöger's side held firm to take a major step towards Europe.
Man of the match
Decisive in the final third, Bittencourt looked back to his very best. The winger recorded two assists and found the net himself in a barnstorming first period.
With fixtures against struggling Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz to come, this win puts Cologne in pole position for a place in the top six and Europa League football. It would be this grand old club's first appearance on the continental stage since 1992/93 and head coach Stöger deserves great credit for his side's excellent season.
- Zoller ended a run of 19 games without a goal.Only one other game this season has had five goals before half-time: Mainz's 4-4 draw with Hoffenheim on Matchday 2.Modeste opened the scoring for the seventh time this season - no other player has done that more often in the Bundesliga.Gnabry has scored 10 of his 11 Bundesliga goals away from home.
Cologne: Horn - Klünter, Sörensen, Subotic, Heinz - Hector, Lehmann (c), Jojic (Höger, 70') - Bittencourt (Rausch, 75'), Zoller (Rudnevs, 82'), Modeste
Coach: Peter Stöger
Werder Bremen: Wiedwald - Veljkovic (Pizarro, 81'), Sane, Moisander - Bauer (Kainz, 65'), Gebre Selassie, Delaney (Gnabry, 54'), Grillitsch, Junuzovic (c) - Bartels, Kruse
Coach: Alexander Nouri
Watch: two-goal hero Anthony Modeste discusses "a great game for the fans":