Cologne's woes continued with a 1-0 home loss to Red Star Belgrade on Matchday 2 while Hertha went down by the same score at Sweden's Ostersund. Cologne were unlucky to lose while Hertha bemoaned a penalty award.
Cologne lost again as their season goes from bad to worse but at least their second half performance offered some hope to their suffering fans.
Tensions were high before the match even started. A reported 5,000 Serbian fans traveled all the way to Cologne and congregated at the city’s Rudolfplatz square.
The notorious Red Star fans then started marching across the city’s streets on their way to the RheinEnergie Stadium, bringing the western part of Cologne to a standstill. A number of arrests were reported due to crowd trouble, but the march was generally peaceful, partly thanks to the heavy police presence. Around 2,300 officers were on duty, wary of problems following crowd disturbances at Cologne's defeat at Arsenal earlier this month.
The atmosphere inside the RheinEnergie Stadium was electric. Both home and away fans were in full voice as kickoff loomed, with flares being lit in both ends.
The first 15 minutes were all about the visiting side. Red Star had a couple of chances to take the lead, the most significant one being when Guelor Kanga was left alone with Cologne keeper Timo Horn, but the midfielder’s shot went wide.
But the goal came eventually. Confusion in Cologne’s defense allowed Red Star striker Richmond Boakye to receive the ball outside the box. Jorge Mere couldn’t deal with the former Juventus man, who has netted nine goals in the Serbian league this season, and his shot to the top left corner flew in.
Horn should probably have done better in trying to stop it. The first half ended 1-0 to Red Star despite two long range shots from Cologne's Milos Jojic, a former Partizan Belgrade player.
The second half was a completely different ball game. Home coach Peter Stöger brought on Yuya Osako and Leonardo Bittencourt, who gave the side some much needed enthusiasm and pace. Cologne looked better from the get-go, attacking again and again in an attempt to get the equalizer.
And Stöger’s men went very close. Jojic managed to hit the bar twice within six minutes, with Bittencourt also striking the woodwork from short range. Frustration started showing, but the Cologne faithful kept on singing, with Bittencourt spurring the boys on.
But that wasn’t enough. Despite what was probably Cologne’s best half of the season so far, the away side took the three points with a 1-0 win. Cologne extend their woeful beginning to the season, with just one point in the Bundesliga from six games and two Europa League losses. Hardly a feat that's worth 25 years of waiting.
Hertha’s patchy form continued in Sweden where they let a good start slip to complicate their Europa League hopes.
Jordan Torunarigha was debatably adjudged to have handled in the box and Brwa Nouri dispatched the penalty midway through the first period.
The visitors had come close to opening the scoring on the artificial pitch through Alexander Esswein, Valentino Lazaro on debut and Vedad Ibisevic but then went badly off the boil.
There was no big reaction after the goal or at the start of the second half from Pal Dardai’s men and the defeat, coupled with the opening 0-0 home draw with Athletic Bilbao, leaves the Berlin side in a sticky situation in Group J.
They are joint-bottom of the four-team pile with one point after Zorya Luhansk won 1-0 at Bilbao to move onto three points and leave the Spanish side on one. Ostersund lead the way with six points from six.
Saman Ghoddos could easily have made it 2-0 for the Swedish hosts late on when he prodded wide. Despite the contentious nature of the penalty, Dardai can have few complaints about the result after such a lackluster showing after a bright opening 20 minutes.
Ostersund, who were in the Swedish top flight for the first ever time last season as they won the Swedish Cup, have performed miracles so far in their debut European adventure. They beat Galatasaray in qualifying and PAOK in the Europa League playoffs and have now downed Luhansk and Hertha.
Not bad for a team from a town of 50,000 people more known for winter sports and managed by a former journeyman English player named Graham Potter.