Cologne waste two-goal lead in draw with Mainz

COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Cologne squandered a two-goal lead and had to sweat to rescue a point in their 2-2 draw with visitors Mainz 05 on Sunday in their first Bundesliga game back after a two-month suspension due to the COVID-19 virus.

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Cologne, looking for their fourth straight league win, thought they had wrapped up the match played without spectators after early goals in each half.

Despite the lack of fans, Cologne had some support as about 1,300 season-ticket holders sent in their favourite club items -- team shirts, scarves or stuffed animals -- which were draped over the empty seats.

Mark Uth converted a sixth-minute penalty he won himself and Florian Kainz headed in a perfect Dominick Drexler cross at the far post in the 52nd minute.

But Mainz, led by former Cologne coach Achim Beierlorzer, cut the deficit through Taiwo Awoniyi in the 61st and levelled 11 minutes later thanks to Kunde Malong’s 30-metre solo run and fine finish from inside the box. They also went close to scoring a third in the final minutes.

“I am not saying I am satisfied but we can live with the point,” Cologne coach Markus Gisdol, who succeeded Beierlorzer, said. “That goal (in the second half) was not good for us. It made us too passive. We gave away too much space but maybe that is normal after such a short preparation to return.”

Cologne remained 10th in the standings on 33 points while Mainz moved four points above the relegation playoff spot.

Leaders Bayern Munich are top on 58 points after beating Union Berlin 2-0 later on Sunday. Borussia Dortmund are a point behind following Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Schalke 04.

The Bundesliga on Saturday became the first major league in the world to restart amid the pandemic.

A set of strict health regulations are governing the matches, including a ban on spectators in or around the stadiums to minimise the risk of infection.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge