Christopher Nkunku was arguably the Bundesliga’s best player last term, scoring 20 and assisting 15 as Leipzig recovered from a poor start to finish inside the top four. Sharp as ever, the Frenchman needed just eight minutes to pick up where he left off last term, seizing on a clever pass from Dani Olmo and firing into the far corner to give the visitors an early lead.
Stuttgart had shown little to indicate they could fight back, but a moment of inspiration from young midfielder Naouirou Ahamada saw him score his first professional goal on the half-hour mark, with a superb curled finish from the edge of the area. Having fought back with such spirit, the hosts could even have gone into HT in front, with Konstantinos Mavropanos rattling the post in first-half stoppage time, leaving Leipzig hanging on at the break.
Die Schwaben had never beaten Leipzig in eight previous meetings, but they were finding most of their attacking opportunities on the counter, with Silas Katompa Mvumpa’s pace proving a real problem. Yet, Leipzig’s extra quality in the final third nearly paid dividends, as Olmo and André Silva combined to set up Nkunku, but Florian Müller was equal to the powerful shot.
The Stuttgart shot-stopper was called into action again as the minutes ebbed away, making a fine reaction save to deny Willi Orbán’s header, but Stuttgart ultimately stood firm against the odds to take a point. In doing so, they also extended Leipzig’s poor record in their first away game of a Bundesliga season, winning just one of six since promotion.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Naouirou Ahamada (VfB Stuttgart)
It could have been very different, as Rodrigo Zalazar Martínez struck home with a beautiful first-time shot after 12 minutes, but the goal was ruled out, with Maya Yoshida adjudged to be obstructing Marvin Schwäbe’s view from an offside position. Goalkeeping was not the true focal point though, with a fiery game bringing 11 fouls in the first half-hour alone. Predictably, the febrile mood peaked when Dominick Drexler received his marching orders. The former Cologne player was given a straight red card after the referee went to VAR, following a tussle with Jonas Hector that ended with the midfielder dragging his studs down the back of the defender’s calf.
The man advantage started to show as HT approached, but Cologne couldn’t find a way to break down the two solid banks of defence the visitors had set up following Drexler’s dismissal. That set the tone for potential dominance from the hosts after HT, and they duly scored the opener minutes into the second half. A short corner routine led to a ball being played into Hector just outside the crowded six-yard box, and his pass across the face of goal was tapped home by a sliding Luca Kilian to make it 1-0.
Cologne doubled their lead just after the hour mark, as Alexander Schwolow dropped a high ball, which Sargis Adamyan tried twice to convert and twice was blocked by a defender, but nothing could be done as Florian Kainz’s late run into the box left him the space to fire the ball into a empty net. The visitors weren’t accepting the impending defeat lying down though, as substitute Marius Bülter scored a header off of Thomas Ouwejan’s free-kick to halve the deficit.
However, any sense of a comeback was eliminated moments later, as Dejan Ljubicic’s header hit the post and bounced off the back of a diving Schwolow and into the net to all but ensure the hosts’ victory. Cologne continued to control the game until the end of proceedings, and will be happy to have started the season on the front foot – despite news that absent striker Anthony Modeste was on his way to Dortmund.