Borussia Mönchengladbach won the bragging rights over rivals 1. FC Köln in the opening weekend Bundesliga derby clash.
After Gladbach somehow failed to find the target in a dominant first half display, Nico Elvedi was the unlikely source of the only goal just after the break. Köln put plenty of pressure on them in the closing stages, but had to settle for defeat.
Billy Goats survive Gladbach onslaught
This opening match came as big as they come for these two sides, huge rivals in the Rhineland since their glory days of the 1970s. Both named the same eleven from their respective DFB-Pokal wins last weekend, meaning first Bundesliga starts for their new clubs for Matthias Ginter, Denis Zakaria (Gladbach) and John Córdoba (Köln).
The Foals made the most of home advantage in the early stages, keeping Köln goalkeeper Timo Horn very busy with shots on goal for Thorgan Hazard, Lars Stindl and Raffael. Stindl then had the best chance of the lot from an Oscar Wendt cross, but again Horn rescued the Billy Goats, before Zakaria had an effort blocked by the arm of Frederik Sörensen – his arm was tight in though so no question of handball.
It was an open game but Köln weren’t getting forward too often. On the notable occasion that they did, Córdoba tried to mark his debut with a goal, but Jannik Vestergaard got a vital deflection, although Yann Sommer still had to get a hand to it to keep it out. Later in the half, Marcel Risse played an excellent ball through on the right to unlock the Colombian, but after running all the way into the box he fired past the mouth of goal and out.
Otherwise Gladbach were given plenty for the fans to cheer about but still couldn’t find a way to get into the lead. Plenty of promising moves broke down before they could get a shot way, although on one occasion Ibrahima Traoré, having failed to find someone to pass to, decided to curl one on goal, but Horn was equal to it.
Stindl missed a couple of other opportunities before half-time, before a couple of big more moments. Raffael with a shot from the left brought yet another save from Horn, before a cross from Traoré was headed over by Hazard, although he fell heavily into Konstantin Rausch in the process, ending the Köln man’s afternoon.
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Elvedi finally breaks deadlock but Foals left hanging on
The resistance of Köln was broken soon after the break. Traoré had been involved in most things and he was again here, putting in the cross for Elvedi to turn in through the legs of Horn for the opening goal – his first for Gladbach. Moments later he was needed at the other end to preserve that lead, contributing a vital tackle just as Córdoba was looking to shoot.
More chances inevitable followed. Raffael charged forward after a ball from Hazard but could only shoot into the side netting, whilst Traoré could have had another assist, only for Stindl to curl his effort wide.
There were moments that Köln couldn’t quite make the most of to get back into the game. A cross from Lukas Klünter was headed wide, off the head of Ginter, by Leonardo Bittencourt, although Köln didn’t a corner. Córdoba remained a threat too – whilst an overhead effort didn’t trouble Sommer, the keeper did need to make a save when Córdoba connected with a ball in from Jannes Horn.
As their fans got a little carried away with flares in the away end, Köln fought desperately to give them something to celebrate. They dominated possession in the latter stages, but Klünter could only place his shot over after the ball was passed around the Gladbach box, and another headed chance came and went for Córdboa.
Raúl Bobadilla, off the bench for a cameo just three days after sealing his return to the club, was presented a chance by Zakaria in stoppage time to make the game safe, but frustratingly for Gladbach he put it wide. By this point the game was being played at a frantic pace, bur despite dominating much of the game, they would have been relieved as much as anything when the full-time whistle went.