Dhe game had just ended when a remarkable scene ensued. Even before Steffen Baumgart headed towards the away fan block to celebrate 1. FC Köln’s 3-1 (3-0) win, he walked the few meters from his coach’s bench towards the main stand, pulled his flat cap off his head – and gave a gift them to a spectator. This in itself is not an unusual occurrence. But this time it was: Baumgart gave it to a supporter of Borussia Mönchengladbach.
“It’s interesting that it’s a Gladbach fan, at least that’s how I felt about him. I hope he’ll be happy to accept it,” said Baumgart. That’s what the recipient did: Afterwards you could see how the gentleman put his hat on and proudly showed it to the people standing next to him – all of them Borussia fans.
Less than an hour later there were further scenes of symbolic value. However, they were less touching. 200 to 300 Gladbach Ultras stormed the stadium forecourt. They broke through a gate and had to be surrounded by the police. A Gladbach delegation appeared to de-escalate. Vice President Rainer Bonhof, Managing Director Stephan Schippers and the pros Lars Stindl, Tony Jantschke and Patrick Herrmann spoke to the angry fans – before they could be pushed back by the police.
Gladbach’s coach apologizes to fans and spectators
Both scenes document in very different ways how great the dissatisfaction is in Mönchengladbach after there was a clear defeat in the second derby with Cologne’s archrival this season. “You just have to apologize to the fans and spectators for our performance,” said Gladbach coach Adi Hütter after a game that confirmed an old football wisdom: form beats class. Or, and this is even more bitter from the point of view of the hosts: willingness and mentality prevail over footballing ability.
In this case it even seems effortless. With the first goal, the Gladbach team fell apart – after the first Cologne attack. Florian Kainz served Anthony Modeste in the penalty area, who pulled away from his opponents and scored to make it 0:1 (5th minute). After that, Hütter’s team made more and more inaccuracies in the game structure, the Cologne team kept finding gaps. After twenty minutes Kainz increased to 0:2. In the 34th minute, Dejan Ljubicic scored the 0:3. That’s it already. The 1: 3 of Gladbach’s Breel Embolo (85th) turned out to be a mere side note.
“A game is never decided after the first goal,” said Jonas Hofmann. In fact, the Gladbach offensive player had a great opportunity to make it 1: 2 (28th). “But we just concede goals where the opponent doesn’t have to do anything. That’s way too easy. There wasn’t much resistance,” Hofmann complained.
The 29-year-old ex-Dortmunder literally burst after the final whistle. The Gladbachers are currently missing “a piece of everything”. The team makes mistakes, from which they then let themselves be dragged down with regularity. It’s no use chewing all this over again. He’s done that so many times. “I’m not going to stab the wound and say, ‘That’s the reason. It’s also an old trope to stand up and say we’re going to analyze it. We have to be there on the pitch. But we didn’t do that often and well throughout the season,” said Hofmann. Although there had been an apparent trend towards stabilization in the last few weeks, when ten points could be scored from four games: “But today it was completely the opposite again. That’s not Gladbach.”
Hofmann is wrong here, however: This is exactly what Gladbach is – and has been for over a year now. Since the announcement of the departure of Marco Rose, Hütter’s predecessor, in February 2021, the team has been struggling. There is dissatisfaction in the squad, there were and are players who want to leave the club. This is at the expense of homogeneity: On Holy Saturday there were again professionals who fell far short of their potential: Alessane Pléa, Florian Neuhaus and Rami Bensebaini seemed uninspired and nervous.
Hütter cannot do anything about these problems, they are in the structural area. However, the coach knows that things cannot go on like this. “Maybe it needs that one other change,” he said. That is a clear statement for the reserved Austrian. In fact, there is a clear consensus in the club. That is: The team urgently needs new dynamics and new players. And they shouldn’t just define themselves through footballing quality, as has been seen in the past. Above all, they should embody passion and mentality.
The people of Cologne prove what can be possible with so-called secondary footballing virtues. When Baumgart surprisingly announced that he wanted to aim for qualification for international business in the remaining five Bundesliga games, the team delivered again. “The team has had this goal for a long time. If you play in these areas of the table, you can’t prevent that,” said the coach: “Now the goal has been made.” The players seem to be spurred on by this.
Ironically, the people of Cologne are showing the people of Gladbach how to reinvent themselves. Last season, FC had to tremble to stay in the Bundesliga. The only way to stay in the class was through relegation. In the meantime, Baumgart’s team has opened up perspectives that seemed utopian just a few months ago and have brought the entire fan scene behind them again.
However, the future is still uncertain. “We don’t know what will happen next summer. We also arouse desires when it comes to our players. There could be a change,” said the coach in an interview with BILD AM SONNTAG. There are open personnel questions: What’s next for goalscorer Modeste, whose contract expires in 2023, as does Salih Özcan. The midfielder is very popular.
That should also apply to Baumgart himself. “It’s clear that I want to stay here,” said the 50-year-old. His working paper is also only valid for one more season. At the moment, however, nobody can imagine that Baumgart does not want to continue what he has done with 1. FC Köln in less than ten months.