Jörg Schmadtke rushed out to the Sky truck in the TV compound to pore over every possible angle – and to check his eyes weren’t deceiving him. By that point, the Köln sporting director had already been on the Signal Iduna Park pitch, shoulder to shoulder with the coach, Peter Stöger, protesting to the referee, Patrick Ittrich, over the award by VAR of Borussia Dortmund’s second goal.
Before any more fingers start pointing at Effzee about an anarchic end to a chaotic week, we should add that this was a reasonable moment for both men to approach Ittrich. Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s belatedly given strike, which made it 2-0, was the last act of the first half before the players made their way off and Köln’s officials made the most of the moment to get their point across.
From the moment Ittrich originally whistled to rule out Sokratis’ effort, much to the Greek defender’s incredulity, the incident had VAR written all over it. Sokratis had been penalised for pushing the goalkeeper Timo Horn before pushing the ball into the empty net but it had been quite clear this was just Horn dropping a clanger – or being put off by a gentle nudge of the shoulder from his own defender, Dominique Heintz, if we’re being generous.
An open and shut case? It certainly seemed so, with Ittrich awarding the goal quickly enough after the video assistant referee Felix Brych saw the images. There was just one problem. Ittrich had blown his whistle just before Sokratis’ shot crossed the line. The Cologne newspaper Express, which suggested Brych had been overzealous, wrote on Monday that the DFB “has only one option”. To play the game again, in other words, which is exactly what Schmadtke has demanded.
There have been parallels elsewhere in Europe. Last month, Genoa were awarded a penalty against Juventus, even though their striker Andrej Galabinov was offside before he was fouled by the Juve defender Daniele Rugani. That led to Juve going 2-0 down, although they eventually came back to win 4-2. This, according to Express, had “a direct influence on the outcome of the game”.
Schmadtke told reporters after that he felt Köln had “good chances” of their appeal being granted, although they were getting short shrift from their hosts. “If they want to protest,” said Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc, “they should. But that’s almost ridiculous.” The Dortmund CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, told Sky the decision was “completely correct. Whether or not the ball was 20cm in front of the line … that’s totally ridiculous.”
Stöger, who had been a candidate for the Dortmund job in the summer after Thomas Tuchel was fired, was a little less forceful. “I’m an advocate of video,” he said, “but here it was misinterpreted and I’d like it to be clarified for the future.” He makes a good point; the system is still experimental and perhaps the video referee has their hands tied in only being able to adjudicate on a single aspect of the play for which the decision was referred.
At least Stöger had the decency to be a little contrite in light of the reality his team were terrible – and a technicality over a goal being allowed or not doesn’t change that. “After a 5-0, you wash your mouth out and try to do better next time,” Watzke added and the Köln coach will be under no illusions. Much has been made of the void left by Anthony Modeste’s departure, and that spectacular strike by his de facto replacement Jhon Córdoba in London will do nothing to change that.
Köln were toothless again – they didn’t get a shot on target until the 75th minute and have scored only once this season in a worst-ever start – but it was their defence who must cause the most concern. No other Bundesliga team has come close to conceding as many as their 12 goals from the first four games. Stöger’s team only conceded 42 in the whole of last season, the league’s sixth-best defensive record.
Whether Frederik Sörensen, well below his best form this season, was rested after Europe or dropped is one thing, but giving the 20-year-old Jorge Meré a debut always seemed like a hospital pass. Even with the habitual list of injuries and Christian Pulisic left on the bench, Dortmund were rampant, with the excellent Andriy Yarmolenko making the opener for Maximilian Philipp – his first goal for the club – in the second minute. Had the leaders not wound down considerably in the last 20 minutes, it could have been much worse.
After last season’s achievements, Stöger deserves time – but as the level of support in London indicated, this is a club whose size should not be overlooked and difficult situations have spun out of control in the past, most notably during Ståle Solbakken’s spell in charge. Overachieving teams are often knocked off kilter by a surprise European qualification and Bundesliga points are needed quickly to avoid the trap. This week’s game against fellow strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt – who have only scored twice themselves this season – is already crucial.
• Good vibes, at last, at the Allianz Arena, where Bayern Munich swept aside Mainz 4-0. Just as with the damp squib of the Champions League win over Anderlecht, though, it was about the journey, rather than the destination. The two results may have been similar but the performances – and henceforth the atmospheres – were night and day. Maybe that Franck Ribéry shirt-throwing strop did set the tone for a greater intensity. It was notable that after Arjen Robben’s goal the Dutchman took a detour to the touchline for a hug with Ribéry. “I’m proud to have played for eight years with Franck at Bayern,” Robben said afterwards. “There was a lot of trouble after [the shirt-throwing] but we need a Ribéry to win titles.” They need Robert Lewandowski, too, who celebrated a century of Bundesliga games for the club by scoring goals 81 and 82 in that time – hours after the Spanish newspaper AS wrote he had instructed his agent to broker a move to Real Madrid for the summer of 2018.
• Chadrac Akolo’s second goal in a week gave Stuttgart victory against Wolfsburg, but the game was totally overshadowed by a horrendous late injury to the captain, Christian Gentner, who was hit in the face by the knee of the visiting goalkeeper Koen Casteels as he flew out to clear the ball. Casteels was quick to signal for help in an alarming scene, which ended with Gentner requiring surgery on a broken nose, eye socket and jaw. The Stuttgart coach, Hannes Wolf, said he had been “very afraid that there would be lasting damage” and it would be a surprise to see Gentner playing again this side of Christmas. On the football side, Wolfsburg again looked awful – and fired their coach, Andries Jonker, on Monday morning after only 19 games in charge. They are back to their normal selves, then, pre-the stability of the Hecking-Allofs era, and face Werder Bremen on Tuesday before going to Bayern on Friday. Jonker’s replacement is the former Mainz coach Martin Schmidt.
• There was also a nasty injury – although not quite on the same level – at the Weserstadion, where Werder Bremen continued winless, against Schalke, as their striker Max Kruse landed awkwardly after a bad foul by Thilo Kehrer and will be kept out for a number of weeks by the resulting dislocated collarbone. On the other side, Amine Harit was lucky to escape with a scrape from a dreadful, above-the-knee challenge by Florian Kainz, for which the latter escaped sanction. Perhaps equally painful was Alexander Nouri’s side shooting themselves in the foot, with Milos Veljkovic’s ludicrous own goal gifting the visitors an equaliser before Leon Goretzka – who Die Königsblauen are ready to offer a new deal on a whopping €10m per year, according to Monday’s Kicker – poked in a late winner. Schalke, who welcomed back Breel Embolo as a late substitute after 11 months out, host Bayern in the Englische Woche’s standout.
• Welcome back Bayer Leverkusen, we’ve missed you. After a flat start to the season put pressure on their newly appointed coach, Heiko Herrlich, this was more like it against Freiburg – a 4-0 win, with an especially stylish first-half display yielding three of those goals and a mini-goal of the week competition between Kevin Volland and Charles Aránguiz, who both scored belters from range. “They were just too strong for us,” the Freiburg manager, Christian Streich, said.. The swagger with which Leverkusen played was not unconnected to the sense of leadership in the team, with the twins Sven and Lars Bender starting on the same side for the first time since they did so with 1860, back in 2009.
• Leipzig discovered the difficulty of getting up again after a Champions League fixture for the first time as they welcomed a highly motivated Borussia Mönchengladbach on the back of their competition debut against Monaco. Ralph Hasenhüttl was back in his familiar tracksuit but less characteristically, Die Roten Bullen let a lead slip twice in a 2-2 draw. One wondered if an alternative to the habitual aggressive press might have been an idea as they tired, with Naby Keïta also shown a red card in the latter stages for a very high boot into the face of Christoph Kramer.
• There was some history in Hoffenheim, where Sandro Wagner’s opener, scored at 1.36pm local time, was the earliest goal in Bundesliga history, a by-product of the all-new Sunday 1.30pm kick-offs. They are now unbeaten in 20 home Bundesliga games, despite Alexander Esswein’s deft header earning Hertha a point.
• Elsewhere, Augsburg netted a second straight win, with Caiuby’s cracker making the difference at Eintracht, and Hannover continue to defy both logic and the anti-Martin Kind protesters – who were out in force again at the HDI Arena as they beat Hamburg 2-0 on Friday, with Martin Harnik scoring another.
Results: Hannover 2-0 Hamburg, Eintracht Frankfurt 1-2 Augsburg, Bayern Munich 4-0 Mainz, Werder Bremen 1-2 Schalke, Stuttgart 1-0 Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hoffenheim 1-1 Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund 5-0 Köln.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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