Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez was on target yet again as Bayer 04 Leverkusen recorded an impressive 2-0 victory away to Rhineland neighbours 1. FC Köln in the final fixture of Matchday 29 on Sunday.
1. FC Köln 0-2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
With six of the top eight teams dropping points over the weekend, Leverkusen went into this match aware that it offered them a golden opportunity to make up ground in their pursuit of UEFA Champions League football next season. Coach Roger Schmidt's men faced a keenly-motivated home side eager for the derby spoils to stave off relegation, but eventually stamped their authority on the game and went ahead when Julian Brandt superbly volleyed home Karim Bellarabi's pass.
That duo combined to set up Chicharito moments later, with the Mexican striker finishing clinically from close range. He could have added another in the second half, before Simon Zoller and Leonardo Bittencourt spurned excellent chances to get the Billy Goats back into the match. Köln were the more active of the sides in the closing stages but they were unable to find a way through, and after Bittencourt and Wendell were both sent off in stoppage time, Leverkusen made the short trip back across the Rhine with all three points.
Man of the match
Bellarabi made the difference here, providing two excellent assists to secure victory for the visitors.
Leverkusen are now unbeaten in five Bundesliga outings and have won each of their last four. That has left them in fourth place, just a point behind Hertha Berlin in third and three ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach in fifth.
- Leverkusen's Wendell earned his tenth yellow card of the season in this match, only the third Bundesliga player to do so in 2015/16. Brandt scored the game’s opening goal for the third consecutive match. This term Chicharito has scored 16 goals in 24 Bundesliga outings, and 25 in 36 competitive fixtures.
Köln: Horn – Risse, Maroh, Heintz, Hector – Lehmann (c) (Hosiner 68'), Vogt (Mladenovic 46') – Zoller (Hartel 78'), Bittencourt, Gerhardt - Modeste
Coach: Peter Stöger
Leverkusen: Leno – Jedvaj, Tah, Ramahlo, Wendell – Kramer, Yurchenko (Mehmedi 80') – Bellarabi (Kießling 55'), Calhanoglu (c), Brandt – Hernandez (Aranguiz 73')
Coach: Roger Schmidt