Nuremberg - Bayer 04 Leverkusen made certain of a top-three finish, and a place in the group stages of next season's UEFA Champions League, with a 2-0 win at 1. FC Nuremberg on Matchday 32.
Lively opening spell
A goal in each half from Ömer Toprak - his first in the Bundesliga - and Stefan Kießling - his 23rd of the campaign, a new Bayer club record - earned the win that leaves Leverkusen seven points clear of fourth-place Schalke with just two games still to play. Nuremberg's mini-slump continues on the back of their fourth straight defeat and indeed, should FC Augsburg win on Sunday, der Club could yet have cause to cast an anxious eye down towards the relegation play-off place.
The visitors settled into the game well and carved out their first clear opportunity in the eighth minute, Stefan Reinartz picking out an unmarked Sebastian Boenisch on the left with a great ball which the full back drilled inches wide of the post. Not long after that, Nuremberg broke momentarily clear of Bayer's industrious high-pressing, Hiroshi Kiyotake freeing up Mike Frantz to put in a cross that found no-one. Alexander Esswein warmed up his shooting boots, however, with a powerful long-range effort which guest custodian Bernd Leno had to punch away to safety.
Those chances aside though, it was the Werkself who were seeing more of the ball and looking sharper on it, except for in the final third. The breakthrough, in the 26th minute, came by way of a corner. Gonzalo Castro swung it in from the left and Toprak rose to power a close-range header past home keeper Raphael Schäfer, the Turkish international centre back's first-ever goal in his 89th Bundesliga outing.
Leverkusen in command
The deadlock broken, the men from the Rhineland pressed in search of a second goal, while Nuremberg sought to regain a measure of control over proceedings in the middle of the park. Shortly before the break, they almost hauled themselves level out of the blue when Esswein's effort drew a great reflex save out of Leno, to keep his side in front at the interval.
The task of turning a 1-0 deficit into a victory had proved beyond Nuremberg no less than 36 times in a row in the Bundesliga and within minutes of the restart, Sidney Sam twice came close to putting them further behind, first with a lob that dropped onto the roof of the net, before firing just over the bar.
Kießling strikes again
The home side were, however, gradually finding more space to operate in as the half unfolded and never more so than on the hour mark, when Per Nilsson was given a free pot at goal from the edge of the six-yard box, his shot fizzing just wide of the post. Nuremberg, and Nilsson, were left to rue that missed opportunity barely two minutes later, when the Swedish international blocked Andre Schürrle's shot with his hand inside the box.
Kießling stepped up to slam it into the top corner with maximum efficiency, taking him level with Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski at the top of the Bundesliga goalscoring charts. Nuremberg almost mustered up an immediate response, only for Toprak to provide a goalline clearance on Frantz's header with Leno beaten.
That would be as close as it would get for the hosts though, while the game's curious finale came early, with ten minutes to go. Timm Klose's tug on Kießling earned Leverkusen another penalty and as their top scorer geared up to take it, Sidney Sam jumped in to do the honours instead, promptly planting the ball against the post.
Line-ups and statistics