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T. Hübers (10), E. Skhiri (46), K. Schindler (90)

Köln through to UECL group stages following 3-0 victory

By Peter Vice   @ViceytheSS

Germany's cathedral city club were able to turn the tables on the return leg of the UEFA Europa Conference League Qualifying Playoff.

A 3-0 victory over Fehérvár FC Thursday night in Székesfehérvár, Hungary was good enough to see Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke through 4-2 on aggregate. 
Ellyes Skhiri, FC Köln
Ellyes Skhiri, FC KölnPhoto: Sandro Halank, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0
For the first time since the ill-fated 2017/18 Europa League Campaign, 1. FC Köln are back in the group stages of a European club competition. Steffen Baumgart's Effzeh traveled to Hungary on Thursday night, overcoming a defeat in the cathedral city seven days ago to advance to the Conference League group stages comfortably on aggregate.

Steffen Baumgart made four changes to the XI that drew Frankfurt on Sunday. Captain Jonas Hector, midfielder Matthias Oleson, and both lead strikers Steffen Tigges and Sargis Adyamyan moved to the bench. Kristian Pedersen took over for Hector at left back. Eric Martel once again paired with Ellyes Skhiri in midfield. Florian Dietz, just as he did in the first-leg, started alone up top. Linton Maina came on to work the right flank in a 4-2-3-1.

Both teams ensured that the opening ten minutes of the fixture were played at a brisk pace. Köln snatched an early lead - and with it a tie in the aggregate score - off a corner in the 10th. Timo Hübers easily shook off his marker and headed in a Florian Kainz service with a simple finish. The ball remained mostly in midfield for the next quarter-of-an-hour, though the guests were noticeably better in the hard-fought duels.

Die Geißböcke mostly found themselves stymied in the final third, with their Hungarian hosts showing bodies in front to block long-range efforts. There wasn't really a chance of note until Kainz belted in a shot from about 20 meters out. Fehervar keeper Daniel Kovac had to be alert to fist the powerful rocket away. Kainz -quite the playmaker on this day -nearly set up Maina one minute before the end of the half.

The Germans were able to get the tally they needed to go ahead on aggregate not long after the restart. The 2-1 also came off a Kainz corner in the 46th. this time Pedersen flicked on Kainz's service to Skhiri at the far post. The Tunisian was able to finish before defender Loic Negro could catch up to the ball. The Fehervar defender could only deflect an attempted headed clearance into his own net.

The hosts tried to open up a bit and were, after some managed risk taking, finally able to generate some chances. Köln keeper Marvin Schwäbe had to make a stellar save on Palko Dardai just after the hour mark. Schwäbe was called upon to make a few more saves during what was a brave second have from Michael Borris' men, but the the home side weren't able to manage anything particular dangerous down the stretch.

Substitutes Jan Thielmann and Kingsley Schindler combined late in second half injury time for the third goal that put matters beyond all doubt. Köln will learn their opponents for the upcoming group stage of the second edition of the UEFA Europa Conference League following a draw tomorrow.

The group stage of the 2022/23 UECL is set to kick off on September 8th. Baumgart actually won't be on the sidelines to coach his team after receiving a red card for arguing with match official Ali Palabiyik over a throw-in in the 90th.

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