Leverkusen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen set the pace in the race for automatic UEFA Champions League qualification on Friday night thanks to a 4-0 win over bottom-of-the-table VfB Stuttgart.
After the guests made a positive start, two goals in four minutes from Wendell and Josip Drmic knocked the stuffing out of the strugglers before Karim Bellarabi added a third and Drmic grabbed his second to hand the Werkself a convincing win.
The visitors were making it hard to determine which side was pushing for third and which was propping up the division as they made a committed and convincing start. Timo Werner was the outlet they were looking for down the left and it was he who created the first chance of the night with a pass setting up Daniel Ginczek, but Bernd Leno blocked his shot.
Werner continued to make a nuisance of himself as the Swabians belied their location both in the league and geographically, playing more like a confident home team inside the BayArena. Their failure to make their superiority show in the goals column cost them dearly the first time the hosts showed some forward motion, however.
Two in four minutes
It was almost a comedy of errors in the Stuttgart defence which enabled Wendell to march through three defenders and place his shot into the far corner of Sven Ulreich's goal. Four minutes later and a Stuttgart defence still reeling from conceding the opener lacked all shape and organisation again as Roberto Hilbert's right-wing cross was nodded past Ulreich by the unmarked Drmic.
After making a bright start, Stuttgart had been pierced and deflated within four minutes, opening the gates at the back invitingly with Kyriakos Papadopoulos very nearly adding a third with a stooping header before the break and another determined aerial effort just after the interval which grazed the left-hand post.
Leverkusen's third goal arrived soon after with Bellarabi jinking inside and then outside Gotoku Sakai before unleashing a powerful low shot past Ulreich for his tenth goal of the season. Less than ten minutes later, Ulreich was fishing the ball out of the back of his goal once again, this time after Drmic got his personal double with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area.
It was the former 1. FC Nürnberg forward's fifth Bundesliga brace and second of the season, and it was enough to kill off the Swabians. Salvaging as much pride as possible was all that remained for Huub Stevens' men, whose battle to save their Bundesliga status just became that little bit more complicated with nine games of the season remaining.
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