It could have turned out so differently for the Wolves, who were the better team initially but were unable to finish a number of presentable chances. Two first-half goals from Köln forward Jhon Cordoba put the hosts in the driving seat but, despite putting in a strong display in the closing stages of the game and pulling a goal back through Renato Steffen, VfL could not muster a fightback.
First start for Ginczek
There were no big surprises in head coach Oliver Glasner’s first line-up of the year, although there was a welcome return for Daniel Ginczek, who was handed his first start of the season after only making a couple of brief substitute appearances before the winter break due to injury. New signing Marin Pongracic was not yet involved in the squad, having only recently arrived at the club.
Strong VfL start, Köln lead
The Wolves began superbly and could have taken the lead with just 16 seconds on the clock when Jerome Roussillon’s cross from the left found Wout Weghorst, but the Dutchman’s header flew narrowly over the crossbar. The striker had another opening just a minute later when played through by Xaver Schlager, but Köln goalkeeper Timo Horn produced a good save to keep his side level.
The Green-and-Whites remained on top for the first 20 minutes or so but were unable to convert further opportunities and as such, the hosts grew in confidence and went ahead against the run of play when Cordoba headed in from Mark Uth’s left-wing free-kick. Momentum subsequently swung Köln’s way and they doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Cordoba took advantage of a defensive mix-up to squeeze his second goal of the day past Koen Casteels.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with VfL starting brightly and carving out presentable chances for Ginczek and Schlager, who had a powerful shot from distance well saved. Once again, however, it was Köln who found the net when Jonas Hector was first to a flick-on inside the box and headed his side 3-0 up.
The Wolves gained a foothold in the game shortly afterwards, though, as Josip Brekalo released substitute Steffen, who crowned a driving forward run with a composed finish into the bottom corner. Glasner’s men threw everything forward as the match wore on, and they pinned the home team back in search of further goals, but the closest they came was a long-range Maximilian Arnold free-kick that Horn tipped around the post, leaving VfL to rue a frustrating start to the new year.
Köln: Horn – Ehizibue, Bornauw, Czichos, Katterbach – Skhiri, Hector (c) – Thielmann (Drexler 73’), Uth (Risse 78’), Jakobs – Cordoba (Modeste 88’)
VfL Wolfsburg: Casteels – Mbabu, Tisserand, Brooks, Roussillon – Schlager, Guilavogui (c) (Mehmedi 86’), Arnold – Brekalo (Victor 77’) – Weghorst, Ginczek (Steffen 57’)
Goals: Cordoba (22’, 45+2’), Hector (62’), Steffen (66’)
Yellow cards: Thielmann, Hector, Jakobs / Brooks, Schlager, Weghorst
Referee: Marco Fritz (Korb)