FEATURE | A difficult farewell for captain Matthias Lehmann as 1. FC Köln promoted as 2. Bundesliga champions

Already confirming promotion and the 2. Bundesliga title, 1. FC Köln can be forgiven for celebrating on their party bus on the way back from Greuther Fürth: “On the first day of training after the celebrations, the boys had to sweat it out a bit,” head coach André Pawlak stated in his pre-match press conference ahead of the final home fixture of the season.

And despite defeat against SSV Jahn Regenseburg at their final home game of the season, all can be forgiven as FC Köln fans celebrated their return to Bundesliga football following a one year absence. Following a rollercoaster season, it’s going to take much more than a defeat in their final home fixture to dampen their spirits.

Pawlak named the same starting XI that clinched Köln promotion and the title at Greuther Fürth on Matchday 32 in what was his first game in charge of the club after the dismissal of Markus Anfang.

Following a slow start to his 2. Bundesliga season – mainly because of Simon Terodde’s impeccable form – Jhon Cordoba almost added to his 20 league goals just one minute in to the first half, firing just wide. The red mist would then descend on the Colombian seconds before the break, shown a straight red card and conceding a penalty, Hamadi Al Ghaddioui stepping up to score Jahn Regensburg’s third of the game just before the break.

The visitors had taken the lead after seven minutes when Rafael Czichos bundled the ball into his own net, Sargis Adamyan then doubling SSV’s lead, firing into an empty net after reacting quicker than the Köln defence.

As fans have seen for much of the season, it was quite the flat performance from Köln. Being a man down for 45 minutes certainly didn’t help their cause but Jonas Hector did give the boisterous support something to cheer about, his header and the fact the TV screens showed that Hamburg – who were relegated alongside Köln – were 2-0 down at SC Paderborn, effectively ending any chance of an immediate return, unlike FC.

That and the fact Hector doubled his tally for the afternoon, bringing Köln to within two goals and 15 minutes to play. Cue the Anthony Modeste’s inevitable goal just three minutes later. Unfortunately, the equaliser didn’t come despite Timo Horn’s best efforts, going up for a corner kick, Peter Schmeichel-esque, only for it to backfire and Regensburg to net their fifth of the afternoon.

That didn’t matter though, all that mattered on the afternoon was FC Köln’s promotion back to the Bundesliga, where they really should be a mainstay. They’re too big of a club, and well supported, to be sitting in the second tier, but such is the case with some fallen giants such as Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich. Luckily for supporters of the Billy Goats, they can celebrate a return, unlike Hamburger SV who will be spending a second year in the Zweite Liga.

But despite being promoted as champions, it’s still not all pretty for Köln. Hardcore supporters congregated behind the main stand following the trophy presentation chanting “sack the board”, something they’ve done many times this season, seemingly unhappy with how the current board operate.

But all in all, a great day for FC Köln as they celebrated a return to the Bundesliga. Although next season they’ll be without a leader on and off the pitch.

Matthias Lehmann bids farewell to 1. FC Köln

On Sunday, Matthias Lehmann’s FC Köln career came to an end after seven years, with the 35-year-old rightfully getting a rapturous applause as he was introduced for the second half. But despite more positives than negatives, his early FC career didn’t start off too well.

“Unfortunately, my first year at FC wasn’t very good. Lots criticised me. I can’t say that it didn’t get to me. As a player, you know what people think of you in the stadium. But I can’t dictate to people, what they should think about me,” penned Lehmann in an open letter to the club.

“I always want to deliver honest work. That was the motto in my career and it will always continue to be so. Honest and straight. That’s the best way. I hope that the fans will have me in their memory as an honest player, who didn’t turn away from anything and was always there for FC.”

Whatever Lehmann chooses to do in the future, FC Köln will no doubt miss his leadership both on and off the pitch.

By Daniel Pinder.


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