Richmond Boakye put Red Star ahead in the first half, with the Serbians well in control of proceedings as Köln struggled to make an impact. The Billy Goats were dominate after the break though, hitting the post three times.
With the backs to the wall, Red Star clung on to their narrow advantage, to secure a first European away win, outside of qualifiers, for ten years.
Boakye goal caps dominate first half Red Star display
This was Köln’s first home match in meaningful European completion for 25 years, following their defeat at Arsenal two weeks ago, and the RheinEnergieStadion was packed and bouncing. Köln though are in dire form, despite finally breaking a losing streak with a 0-0 draw against Hannover 96 at the weekend. Peter Stöger made four changes from that match, whilst the Serbians could recall goalkeeper Milan Borjan after injury, but had lost defenders Vujadin Savić and Milan Rodić from the weekend victory against FK Vojvodina.
Red Star, who drew 1-1 in their opening group match against BATE Borisov, started the match like a side that had won all but one match domestically this season. Guélor Kanga had the first, and best, of several early chances, running on to a long ball and charging forward. He managed to get around goalkeeper Timo Horn in the box, but he found himself at too tight an angle to direct his effort on goal.
Mitchell Donald also struck over early on, with Kanga doing likewise a little while later. Boakye then had a first sight of goal, heading wide a cross from Filip Stojković. He made no mistake a few minutes later though. It was a wonderful goal from the Ghanaian – he headed on to himself, charged forward and teased the defence before firing it into the top near corner of the net.
After that there seemed to be a clear plan to test Horn from distance, although Slavoljub Srnić and Nemanja Radonjić both missed the mark. However Köln started to liven up themselves in the closing stages of the half. Jhon Córdoba tried to use his physicality to make something happen, whilst Miloš Jojić (once of FK Paritzan) had two efforts from Konstantin Rausch free-kicks – heading one wide before a closer shot after Boakye had headed clear.
Posts denies Köln three times in second half fightback
Stöger decided the first half wasn’t good enough, and brought Leonardo Bittencourt and Yuya Osao from the bench for the second half. Their introductions, particularly the former’s, plus the consequential tactical switch, worked wonders.
Bittencourt put a header wide from a Jojić cross, and that was just the start of a sustained period of pressure from the Billy Goats. A cross from Paweł Olkowski couldn’t quite find Bittencourt, before Córdoba’s overhead kick went nowhere. Marko Gobeljić cleared a Bittencourt cross, before a promising move between Osako and Jojić petered out.
They would get so much closer to levelling the game up though, only for the post to deny them three times in the space of 20 minutes. Jojić was the victim of the woodwork twice, a close range effort and one from a little further out. Bittencourt, after received the ball from Rausch, then did likewise, striking his near post.
Red Star were giving all they had in their defensive efforts, with several players struggling with cramp. It just was not happening though for Stöger’s men. Rausch, Osako and Córdba all had chances to break the Serbian rear-guard. Frederik Sörensen, who moments earlier had blocked a Srnić chance, then had a header kept out by Borjan from Christian Clemens corner in the first of five added minutes. That was the last chance though, meaning another defeat for struggling Köln.