Bayer Leverkusen go 10 points clear after 2-0 win over 10-man Cologne

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COLOGNE, Germany,- Bayer Leverkusen went 10 points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich with a 2-0 Bundesliga win over struggling neighbours Cologne, who were reduced to 10-men in the first half of a hotly-contested Rhein derby on Sunday.

Leverkusen extended their unbeaten run to 34 games in all competitions this season and now have 64 points. They extended their lead over Bayern, who drew 2-2 at Freiburg on Friday.

Cologne had Jan Thielmann sent off after 14 minutes and Leverkusen took the lead through Jeremie Frimpong ahead of the break before Alex Grimaldo netted his ninth league goal of the season in the 73rd to end Cologne’s brave fight.

Leverkusen, looking to win their first league title, made the short trip across the Rhine river, where the only relaxed figure in the raucous stadium was Cologne’s mascot Hennes the goat who munched happily pitchside oblivious to the tension.

Tempers flared in the 12th minute after a foul from behind by Thielmann on midfielder Granit Xhaka and, although the referee initially only awarded a free kick, Thielmann was shown the red card after a VAR check.

Despite the extra man, Leverkusen struggled to create any clear-cut chances until the 37th minute.

Grimaldo’s cross was flicked on by Patrik Schick and Frimpong tapped home from close range for his eighth league goal this season as Leverkusen took a 1-0 lead into the break.

Six minutes after the interval, Cologne had a chance to level when Rasmus Carstensen’s cross was met by the unmarked Sargis Adamyan, but his volley hit the post with goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky well beaten.

Leverkusen laboured, despite the extra man, and manager Xabi Alonso sent on Borja Iglesias and Amine Adli with 25 minutes left and eight minutes later Adli’s work set up the second goal.

He pulled the ball back from the goal line to the edge of the six-yard box and Grimaldo’s first time shot took a slight deflection off Cologne defender Julian Chabot and went through the legs of keeper Marvin Schwabe.

Leverkusen easily saw out the rest of the game and, with 10 matches left, they will now be expected to go from “Neverkusen” to taking the crown away from Bayern, winners of the last 11 Bundesliga titles, despite their players urging caution for now.

“There are still a few games to play. We have seen in the past what else can happen,” defender Jonathan Tag told Dazn.

“It’s important to maintain focus.”

Cologne’s defeat leaves them in 16th – the relegation playoff spot – on 17 points, eight adrift of the safety zone.

Source: Reuters