Berlin (AFP) – Swedish striker Sebastian Andersson struck twice in a chaotic first half to help Cologne avoid relegation from the Bundesliga with a 5-1 win over second-tier side Holstein Kiel on Saturday.
Andersson, a marquee signing last summer who had been injured for much of the season, stepped up in the second leg of the promotion play-off tie to spare Cologne a third relegation in 10 years.
Amid a flurry of four goals in the first 15 minutes, the 1.90-metre Swede scored twice with his head to put Cologne on course and bury Kiel’s hopes of a first ever promotion to the German top flight.
“If Andersson had been available more often, then my predecessor would have won more games,” said Cologne coach Friedhelm Funkel, who took over from Markus Gisdol in April with Cologne stuck in the bottom three.
“I’m so happy for the club, the fans and the city of Cologne. I stink terribly, I’ll need a change of clothes,” the 67-year-old told broadcaster DAZN after his jubilant players showered him in beer on the pitch.
German media estimated that relegation would have cost Cologne more than 25 million euros ($30.5 million) in income from broadcasting rights.
They would have been the third iconic German club to go down this year after Werder Bremen and Schalke.
“Cologne belong in the top flight, and we gave everything today to make sure we stayed there,” said goalkeeper Timo Horn.
Having avoided automatic relegation with just four minutes to spare on the final day, Cologne had slumped to a surprise 1-0 defeat in the first leg on Wednesday.
So second-division underdogs Kiel had high hopes of an upset as they took to the field in front of 2,500 raucous fans in the bright evening sunshine.
Yet they were left shellshocked after an explosive first half which began with three goals in the first six minutes.
Kiel’s narrow first-leg advantage was cancelled out after just three minutes as Cologne captain Jonas Hector headed his side in front from a corner.
The hosts hit back straight from the kick-off, with South Korea international Lee Jae-sung heading in the equaliser.
Yet Andersson immediately restored Cologne’s lead at the other end, before making it 3-1 with another headed goal on 12 minutes.
Kiel’s promotion hopes seemed dead and buried just a few minutes before half-time when their former player Rafael Czichos sent a sweetly struck half-volley sailing into the top corner.
Goalkeeper Ioannis Gelios kept the minnows clinging on with several fine saves in the second half, before Ellyes Skhiri slammed in a fifth to seal survival for Cologne six minutes from time.
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