Bayer Leverkusen moved into the Bundesliga’s top four with a 2-0 victory at local rivals Cologne on Sunday.
Two goals in the space of just over five minutes at the end of the first half earned a fourth straight Bundesliga win for Roger Schmidt’s men, who go fourth and to within one point of Hertha Berlin in third.
Karim Bellarabi was influential, setting up both goals. His chip set up Julian Brandt to convert with a first-time volley, before a precise pass allowed Javier Hernandez to take one touch and finish from close range for his 16th league goal of the campaign.
The two teams ended with 10 men each after the hosts’ Leonardo Bittencourt was given a straight red card and Leverkusen’s Wendell received a second booking after they clashed deep into stoppage time.
A thrilling race for Champions League qualification also has Borussia Monchengladbach, Mainz and Schalke all level on 45 points, three adrift of Leverkusen with five matches to play.
Cologne, who pushed forward in the second half but could not get back into the game, stay 11th and have only picked up four points from their last seven Bundesliga encounters.