Europa Conference League
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FC Köln
S. Marković (9)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Köln can't find the right finish, succumb to "Belgrade blanking"

Bundesliga conference league representatives 1. FC Köln were unable to parlay their strong league form into a victory against Partizan Belgrade on Thursday night. 

Steffen Baumgart's Effzeh dropped their third UECL group stage match to the visiting Serbs.
In a game that featured plenty of chances for the home side, 1. FC Köln could manage to overcome an early deficit and ended up losing to their guests from Belgrade. A win for Partizan catapults the Serbs to the top of the 2022/23 UEFA Conference League's Group D on five points. Köln are not far behind on four points, having won, lost, and drawn in their first three group stage fixtures.

Köln trainer Buamgart made a whopping seven changes to the XI that upset Dortmund over the weekend. Sargis Adamyan, Florian Dietz, Kingsley Schindler, Denis Huseinbasic, Eric Martel, Kristian Pedersen, and Nikola Soldo rotated in for Steffen Tigges, Linton Maina, Ellyes Skhiri, Dejan Ljubicic, Benno Schmitz, Jonas Hector and Timo Hübers. Die Geißböcke lined up in a 4-1-3-2 formation with Martel running midfield and Dietz and Adamyan serving in a two striker set.

The mostly new set of outfielders actually had difficulty on the charge early. Köln's Serbian guests had little difficulty defending the German's approach play. Patizan were able to snatch an early goal off a corner in the 9th, with holdover defender Luca Kilian not looking terribly good on the mark. A nice corner design nearly allowed the Domstädter to equalize in the 13th, but Dietz committed an offensive foul.

After the early exchange of blows off set-pieces, Baumgart's side really struggled to come up with solutions against Gordon Petric's compact side. On the rare occasions during which the German hosts were able to punch through, the finishing quality simply wasn't there. Adamyan shot wide in the 20th, then headed off the crossbar three minutes later.

Dietz wasted a marvelous opportunity in the 32nd, heading a perfect Pedersen cross directly into the arms of keeper Aleksandr Popovic. The best chance of the remainder of the first-half came in the 41st, when Köln keeper Marvin Schwäbe nearly committed a howler, but prevented the ball from going into the back of the net.

Köln couldn't make much of a series of corners after the restart. Eventually, the attack got into better gear near the hour-mark. Duda shot wide in the 60th. Baumgart opted for a triple substitution shortly thereafter, bringing on Hector, Maina, and Ljubicic. This actually had the effect of confusing the team somewhat and the guests took advantage.

Partizan's Queensy Menig forced Schwäbe into two big saves in the 62nd and 64th. After a series of injury-related interruptions killed off the flow of the match over the next ten minutes, Baumgart introduced Tigges and hometown hero Mark Uth made his long-awaited return to the pitch. The hosts certainly fought hard for an equalizer in the final stretch.

Adamyan regrettably slipped on an attempted finish in the 81st. Tigges flashed wide two minute later. Everyone on the German side poured forward in the final minutes. At one point, the hosts were nearly caught out. Partizan's Patrick Andrade had a chance to seal the victory at 90+1, yet couldn't best Schwäbe.

The injury interruptions compelled match official Ricardo de Burgos to add seven minutes of injury time. Unfortunately for the cathedral city side Ljubicic struck his effort over the bar at 90+2. Maina nearly forced an own goal during a wild scene at 90+7. The 1-0 scoreline would end up holding in favor of the Serbs.

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