Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim got the point they needed to guarantee European football for the first time in their history on Friday, holding Cologne to a 1-1 draw at the RheinEnergieSTADION.
Cologne 1-1 Hoffenheim
Goals: 1-0 Bittencourt (58’), 1-1 Demirbay (90+3’)
Hoffenheim started the brighter of the two sides, with Andrej Kramaric providing constant menace from his withdrawn attacking position on the left. An early volley over the bar served as a warning shot before the Croatian nearly turned provider for Adam Szalai, but the centre-forward – scorer of seven goals from just 13 shots before the game - failed to find his balance with Timo Horn’s goal at his mercy. Cologne rallied towards the interval but the sides went in for their half-time oranges with the score all square at 0-0.
Whatever Peter Stöger said to his men at half-time seemed to settle them, though, and the Billy Goats galloped into the lead just inside the hour when Jonas Hector – on his weaker right foot, squared the ball for an unmarked Leonardo Bittencourt to double his season tally with a close-range tap in. Anthony Modeste and Milos Jojic had a pair of late chances to put the game beyond doubt, but they were made to rue their profligacy when Kerem Demirbay side-footed Niklas Süle’s cut back into the bottom corner to seal a late share of the points.
Man of the Match
Demirbay finished 14th in Bundesliga 2 with Fortuna Düsseldorf last season. What a transformation. His habit for important goals has been invaluable for Hoffenheim this term, and this – his sixth – has delivered European football to the Sinsheim club for the first time in their history.
Nagelsmann has crafted a footballing force in Germany’s south-west, and Hoffenheim have deservedly qualified for Europe. Süle and Sebastian Rudy are leaving for champions Bayern Munich at the end of the season, but such is the ability of the 29-year-old coach to unearth and polish new rough diamonds, next season promises to be one of excitement at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena regardless.
- Hoffenheim now have a club-record 55 points after 30 games played, and with it, a guaranteed place in European competition next term.Demirbay has scored three goals in his last two games for the Sinsheim club.Cologne have lost just one of their last 11 Bundesliga matches against Hoffenheim – the 4-0 earlier this season.