FC Koln's calamitous campaign capped off with relegation
Saturday's defeat to Freiburg only confirmed the inevitable.
A year after earning fifth-placed Bundesliga honours and a European berth, FC Koln is back to the second tier, capping off a disastrous campaign for The Billy Goats.
Stefan Ruthenbeck's charges paid Freiburg's Schwarzwald-Stadion a visit Saturday knowing only a victory would extend a tenuous grasp on Bundesliga football. Instead, Nils Petersen scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season, tops among German players in the league, cementing Koln's return to 2. Bundesliga in a 3-2 victory. Leandro Bittencourt scored a late brace for the visitor before Lucas Holer's injury-time tap-in poured salt in Koln's wounds.
For Koln, relegation has been in the cards since a defeat at Monchengladbach during the opening weekend. Koln would go on to lose 12 of its next 15 league affairs, winning its first match at home to Wolfsburg on Dec. 16. The North-Rhine Westphalian outfit then won two on the bounce before kicking off a mercurial stretch pairing six defeats and four draws in a dozen matches.
The 25 matches Koln lost in all competitions in 2017 is a club-record for a calendar year.
Winner of the first Bundesliga title in 1963-64, Koln enjoyed a decent spell of success in the 1970's and 80's, capturing the league again in 1977-78 to go with five domestic cups and defeat in the 1985-86 UEFA Cup final to Real Madrid.
The 21st century has not been as kind to The Billy Goats. A maiden relegation in 1998 prompted yo-yo status and financial concerns before the club was reinvigorated in 2012 with the election of a new board of directors. Promotion to the Bundesliga for the 2014-15 campaign followed, as did a gradual climb up the top-tier table culminating in last season's fifth-placed finish and spot in this year's Europa League group stage.
For Freiburg, Saturday's victory is vital for its Bundesliga survival, with the club now on 33 points, three up on Mainz and a perilous 16th-placed relegation playoff spot. Christian Streich's lot became the first side to field a starting XI entirely comprised of German players in the Bundesliga this season.