Leverkusen beat Cologne to open up 10-point gap to Bayern


Leverkusen move 10-points clear of Bayern with win vs. Cologne

Bayer Leverkusen increase their advantage at the top of the Bundesliga after a 2-0 win vs. Cologne.

Bayer Leverkusen went 10 points clear of second-placed Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Cologne, who were reduced to 10-men in the first half of a hotly-contested Rhein derby on Sunday.

Leverkusen, who have now gone 34 games without defeat in all competitions this season, have 64 points. They extended their lead over Bayern, who drew 2-2 at Freiburg on Friday.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Cologne had Jan Thielmann sent off after 14 minutes for treading on the back of Granit Xhaka's ankle before Leverkusen took the lead through Jeremie Frimpong ahead of the break before Álex Grimaldo netted his ninth league goal of the season in the 73rd to end Cologne's brave fight.

Leverkusen, looking to win their first Bundesliga title, made the short trip across the Rhine river, where the only relaxed figure in the raucous stadium was Cologne's mascot Hennes the goat who munched happily pitchside oblivious to the tension.

Tempers flared in the 12th minute after a foul by Thielmann on midfielder Granit Xhaka and, although the referee initially only awarded a free kick, Thielmann was shown the red card after a VAR check.

Jeremie Frimpong opened the scoring for Bayer Leverkusen.
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Despite the extra man, Leverkusen struggled to create any clear-cut chances until the 37th minute.

Grimaldo's cross was flicked on by Patrik Schick and Frimpong tapped home from close range for his eighth league goal this season as Leverkusen took a 1-0 lead into the break.

Six minutes after the interval, Cologne had a chance to level when Rasmus Carstensen's cross was met by the unmarked Sargis Adamyan, but his volley hit the post with goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky well beaten.

Leverkusen laboured, despite the extra man, and manager Xabi Alonso sent on Borja Iglesias and Amine Adli with 25 minutes left and eight minutes later Adli's work set up the second goal.

He pulled the ball back from the goal line to the edge of the six-yard box and Grimaldo's first time shot took a slight deflection off Cologne defender Julian Chabot and went through the legs of keeper Marvin Schwabe.

Leverkusen easily saw out the rest of the game and, with 10 matches left, they will now be expected to shake off their "Neverkusen" tag to take the crown away from Bayern who have won the last 11 Bundesliga titles.

"There are still a few games to play. We have seen in the past what else can happen," defender Jonathan Tag told Dazn.

"It's important to maintain focus."

Cologne's defeat leaves them in 16th -- the relegation playoff spot -- on 17 points, eight points from safety.