Bayer 04 Leverkusen are daring to dream of a place in next season's UEFA Champions League, thanks in no small part to the sensational Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez.

The 27-year-old's 15th Bundesliga goal of the season was the pick of the bunch on Friday night as Die Werkself swotted aside 2014/15 Bundesliga runners-up VfL Wolfsburg in a win that keeps them firmly in the mix for a top-four finish.

Match report: Leverkusen 3-0 Wolfsburg

Man of the match

© imago / foto2press

Leverkusen were already a Julian Brandt goal to the good when Hernandez entered the fray 30 minutes into the second half at an expectant BayArena. The former Chivas, Manchester United FC and Real Madrid CF striker had not long been back on German soil after helping his native Mexico into the fifth round of CONCACAF FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying, but showed no signs of jet lag in one of the most memorable Bundesliga cameos in living memory.

Little Pea's sublime curling strike gave Leverkusen the two-goal cushion they so badly needed, whilst drawing a line under his own rather uncharacteristic 282-minute barren spell without a Bundesliga goal. An assist straight out of the top drawer followed as Vladlen Yurchenko fired in a late third to wrap up a resurgent Leverkusen's third successive Bundesliga win.

Exclusive: Why Chicharito loves the Bundesliga

'Slotted back in seamlessy'

© imago / Huebner

"Chicharito's goal for the national team did him good," Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler said after the game. "I know that from my own experience. If you go a couple of weeks without a goal and then score a cracking header on international duty, it does you the world of good. He was definitely a bit tired when he came back."

Not that many would have noticed. After flying to Vancouver, Canada, then on to Mexico City and finally back to Germany, making the matchday squad was an achievement in itself. Yet, when the call came from the touchline, the indefatigable Mexican sprung into action, looking as fresh as a daisy.

"You saw how effective Chicharito is," Leverkusen midfielder Brandt explained. "It can't have been easy for him. He only landed on Thursday and had jet lag after such a long flight. He slotted back in seamlessly, though, came in, scored a goal and laid on an assist. There's nothing else that needs to be said about him."

Reaction: Brandt hails Chicharito impact

Leverkusen hitting form

Adding to the Matchday 28 experience was the long-awaited Bundesliga debut of Charles Aranguiz. The Chile international midfielder tore an Achilles tendon just a week after joining the club from SC Internacional last summer, but now appears to have put his injury nightmare behind him.

"I'm just delighted that he was able to play a bit today," returning Leverkusen captain Lars Bender enthused - Aranguiz having replaced veteran striker Stefan Kießling in the 89th minute. "He's finally a part of he team. Now he just needs a couple of games behind him and to build up his confidence. It's going to be a decisive year for him."

For Leverkusen as a whole, however, it is the more immediate future that is of paramount importance. The race for the remaining Champions League places looks almost certain to go right to the wire, but with games against top-four rivals FC Schalke 04, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hertha Berlin still to come, Bayer's destiny is in their own hands.