The first Bundesliga game of 2018 saw Borussia handed a painful 2-1 defeat away to local rivals 1. FC Köln. The winning goal came with the last touch of the game after Borussia had been denied a seemingly clear penalty minutes earlier.
The first half was one controlled by the Fohlenelf, although Köln’s pressing made it difficult to forge any decent chances from open play. The closest the visitors came to opening the scoring was from a set piece. A corner kick was flicked on the middle and Christoph Kramer pounced at the back post, only to fire a venomous shot into the side netting. In the 34th minute, the home side created their only real moment of danger to that point, but it was enough to earn them a goal. Frederik Sorensen merely had to get something on Jojic’s in-swinging free-kick to squeeze the ball past Yann Sommer and hand Köln a half-time lead.
Dieter Hecking changed things up for the second half, introducing Raffael in place of Vincenzo Grifo, and the Brazilian made his presence felt. His great cross found Thorgan Hazard inside in the six-yard box, but he wasn’t able to direct his header goalwards, before Lars Stindl could only deflect a follow-up delivery from Oscar Wendt wide of the target. The equaliser did follow with 20 minutes to go though, and it was Raffael who produced it, determined to force the ball over the line after Herrmann had been denied by Horn and the Brazilian’s initial rebound was blocked by Jonas Hector. Hecking’s men were more adventurous in search for the winner and substitute Jonas Hofmann fired an effort narrowly wide of the upright, however, he was taken out in the process by a Köln defender. The referee reviewed the incident courtesy of VAR, but surprisingly deemed it to be a legal challenge. The Billy Goats were to add to Borussia’s frustrations yet though, as Simon Terodde headed home a 95th-minute winner to hand the Foals a painful 2-1 derby defeat.
The first game of the Rückrunde saw Hecking call on his regular defensive setup, with Nico Elvedi, Matthias Ginter, Jannik Vestergaard and Oscar Wendt lining up in a back four in front of Yann Sommer. Christoph Kramer returned alongside Denis Zakaria in midfield, while Patrick Herrmann and Vincenzo Grifo took to the flanks. Lars Stindl was joined in attack by Thorgan Hazard.
Despite the winter break, there were still six players unavailable due to injury: Raúl Bobadilla (pubic bone inflammation), Fabian Johnson (back problems), Ibrahima Traoré (thigh strain), Tobias Strobl (ACL tear), László Bénes (broken foot) and Mamadou Doucouré (torn hamstring).