Cologne have wrapped up promotion to the Bundesliga next season with a 3-1 home win over Bochum. After two years' absence, coach Peter Stöger's Billy Goats can return to top-flight German pastures.
The beer showers are the same as at Bayern Munich, albeit with the local, lighter Kölsch brew, as opposed to the wheat beer favored in Bavaria. Fans charged onto the pitch shortly after the final whistle to celebrate with their team on home turf - as they guaranteed promotion with three matches to spare.
"Mission accomplished," read the celebratory t-shirts donned by the players after the final whistle - with Cologne bouncing back into the Bundesliga at the second attempt following their 2012 relegation.
At first it seemed that the hosts would have to wait another week for the confirmation, considering that they trailed 1-0 at half time against VfL Bochum on Monday evening. Coach Peter Stöger dipped into his bench at the break, bringing on Marcel Risse.
Within five minutes of the restart, Risse tied the score with a right-footed shot from just outside the box. Patrick Helmes had a strong penalty appeal turned down shortly thereafter, but was later awarded a spot kick for a foul by left-back Jonas Acquistapace, who was also sent off by referee Guido Winkmann.
Helmes' penalty was saved in the 64th minute, but the German followed up to finish the rebound with his left. A second substitute up front, Helmes' replacement Anthony Ujah, put the result beyond any doubt against Bochum's ten men in the 81st minute.
Front-runners all year
Unbeaten in their last ten games in the 2. Bundesliga, Cologne enjoy a comfortable lead atop the second division table and cannot now be caught.
Stöger's first campaign with the club, since joining from Austria Vienna in the summer, proved comparatively smooth sailing in the second division - the only title Cologne have managed to snaffle in recent years. A former top flight title winner, in the Bundesliga's inaugural 1963/64 campaign and most recently in 1978, Cologne has become something of a yo-yo team since the turn of the century - winning the 2. Bundesliga in 2000, 2005, and now in 2013/14.
Supporters and players on Monday evening sang: "Nie wieder zweite Liga," translating roughly as "second division, never again," on the pitch after securing promotion.
'Better' than Bayern at the back - numerically
The Billy Goats have lost just three league games all season. Stöger's Cologne have emerged as a defensively solid unit, conceding just 17 second division goals. Even mighty Bayern have conceded 20 in the same number of league matches, albeit against stronger opposition. A concern for the club might be firepower up front. Stöger doesn't want for options, with Helmes, Ujah, Risse and Slawomir Peszko all receiving regular minutes this season - but only 30-year-old Helmes has a proven scorer's track record in the Bundesliga.
Stöger's arrival in the coaching dugout coincided with Jörg Schmadtke's implementation as sporting director in Cologne. The former Hannover 96 official had previously enjoyed a successful spell in northern Germany with Mirko Slomka, taking Hannover to European competition in two straight seasons. Cologne's notoriously ambitious home fans were chanting about European competition during Monday night's win - although Schmadtke and Stöger's first priority next season will surely be Bundesliga survival.
The race for promotion below Cologne remains wide open with three sets of fixtures to play. Greuther Fürth, Paderborn, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe and St Pauli might all still hope to be in with a shot of either the second automatic promotion spot, or the place in the relegation playoff earmarked for the third-placed team in the German second division.