Leon Bailey scored two goals and set up another for Moussa Diaby as Bayer Leverkusen swept past Cologne on Saturday evening, boosting their hopes of playing European football next season.
Leverkusen could hardly have made a better start to the game, taking the lead with just five minutes on the clock. Patrik Schick's clever flick found Nadiem Amiri, who released Diaby down the right flank. The Frenchman avoided Jannes Horn's challenge and lofted a delicate ball to the back post, where Bailey was waiting to head home. Relegation-threatened Cologne had no intention of throwing in the towel, however, and fought their way back into the game, with Max Meyer and captain Jonas Hector going close. The visitors thought they had a penalty when Charles Aranguiz tripped Marius Wolf, but replays showed the foul had been committed just outside the area, with the VAR confirming a free-kick. Florian Kainz slipped it to Hector, whose thunderous effort rattled back off the crossbar. Schick almost doubled Leverkusen's lead with a well-placed header from close range, but Timo Horn made a fine save to ensure there was only one goal in it at half-time.
Cologne began the second period on the front foot, with Hector angling a low effort just wide of the post, but Leverkusen soon made it 2-0 from a well-worked counter-attack. Following a Cologne corner, Aranguiz sent a long ball over the top for Bailey, who waited until Horn had raced off his line to square for Diaby – the 21-year-old jinked inside to avoid a challenge from Kingsley Ehizibue, before slamming in his fourth of the season. Diaby could then have put the home side out of sight, but couldn't choose between a shot or a pass and the chance went begging. Kainz nearly gave Cologne hope with a ferocious drive from distance – but like Hector, he was denied by the crossbar. Leverkusen never looked in serious danger of relinquishing their lead, and Bailey put his seal on the game by doubling up 15 minutes from time, skipping past two defenders and sliding into the far corner. The result means Bayer are now six points adrift of the final UEFA Champions League spot, while Cologne are four from outright safety.
- Bailey moved onto eight Bundesliga goals for the season. His career-best return for Leverkusen was nine in 2017/18.
- The Jamaican got his second brace of the season - his first came in a 4-1 win over Hoffenheim in mid-December.
- Diaby also had a goal and an assist in the reverse fixture, which finished 4-0 to Leverkusen. The Frenchman was on target for the first time since 19 January.
- Die Werkself scored five minutes into the first half and six minutes into the second half.
- Hannes Wolf has taken seven points from a possible nine since replacing Peter Bosz in the Leverkusen dugout.
- Cologne are on the longest winless run of any Bundesliga club (nine matches). They’ve claimed just two points from a possible 27 in that time.
Watch: Bailey: "My quality came alive"
Leverkusen: Hradecky - Jedvaj (Tah 46'), S. Bender, Tapsoba - Diaby (Demirbay 73'), Palacios (Frimpong 46'), Aranguiz (c), Wendell (Sinkgraven 57') - Bailey (Alario 83'), Amiri - Schick
Unused subs: Grill, Dragovic, Weiser, Bellarabi
Out: Arias (ankle), Baumgartlinger (knee), L. Bender (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Paulinho (knee)
Coach: Hannes Wolf
Cologne: T. Horn - Ehizibue (Schmitz 70'), Bornauw, Czichos, J. Horn (Katterbach 70') - Skhiri (Özcan 79'), Hector (c) - Wolf (Limnios 85'), Meyer, Kainz (Drexler 70') - Dennis
Unused subs: Zieler, Rexhbecaj, Mere, Lemperle
Out: Andersson (knee), Duda (suspended), Jakobs (ankle), Thielmann (muscular)
Coach: Friedhelm Funkel
Watch: Funkel: "I enjoyed being back"