Rot Weiss secured their place in the KO8 and set up a mouth-watering tie with German Rivals Mulheim with a hard fought 3-2 win over Belgian side Royal Leopold.
Christopher Zeller saw his penalty corner deflected wide in the first minute of the game, but aside from that chance the opening exchanges were cagey, with both sides trying to settle into the match and not give anything away early on.
Right at the end of the first quarter Koln took the lead. A break down the left saw Tibor Weissenborn feed Moritz Trompertz. The No.1 produced a lovely turn and entered the circle, firing a low reverse stick cross past the goalkeeper for Marco Miltkau to touch home from close range.
Royal Leopold went close to an equaliser in the second quarter as Tanguy Zimmer’s penalty corner was touched goalwards by Agustin Mazzilli, only to come back off the post. Mazzilli also threatened with a bouncing shot which Max Weinhold guided around the post to safety as Leopold built up a head of steam searching for an equaliser.
The game really sparked into life just after half time as the Belgians drew level straight away. Lucas Rafael Rossi showed good awareness down the right hand side and drilled a cross to the back post where Arthur Verdussen slid in to deflect the ball into the roof of the net to restore parity.
The scores weren’t level for long however, as Weissenborn swapped passes with Trompertz before the latter found Zeller in the D. His first-time lay-off teed up Weissenborn who had continued his run and slotted home underneath the onrushing goalkeeper for 2-1.
In a frantic passage of play Verdussen fizzed a reverse stick effort wide of the goal and Leopold had a video referral for a penalty corner turned down, before Dimitri Cuveiler drew a decent save out of Weinhold.
With Leopold threatening to level the tie again, Rot Weiss struck what proved to be a killer blow. Zeller played a neat 1-2 from a penalty corner with Weissenborn and calmly flicked the ball into the goal underneath Romain Henet to make the score 3-1.
It looked as though the game was up and the Germans could have extended their lead but for a splendid save from Henet, touching Zeller’s fierce drag flick on to the underside of the bar.
Leopold withdrew their goalkeeper with time running out and got an immediate reward: Jerome Verdussen slid in to expertly deflect a penalty corner over Weinhold and ensured a nervy last couple of minutes for Rot Weiss. The Belgians threw everything at their opponents in an attempt to force extra time, but in the end it was too little, too late.
“The second goal was very important after they had made it 1-1. It was a good response from us. Mulheim [in the next round] are a well-known opponent and a good team. It will depend on the form on the day.” Said Christopher Zeller after learning he had been awarded the man of the match.
It was hardly a vintage display from Koln’s galaxy of international stars, but knock-out hockey is all about doing enough and qualifying, which is exactly what they did.