Bender brace sees Leverkusen past Cologne
Lars Bender scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen remained in the running for a UEFA Europa League spot with a strong 2-0 victory at Cologne.
Bender scored the first goal of the game in the 16th minute and doubled his tally in the 50th minute. Leverkusen have suffered just one loss in their last six games and move on to 37 points.
Cologne, who through a combination of suspension and injury were missing Miso Brecko, Slawomir Peszko, Geromel, Henrique Sereno, Kevin Pezzoni and Ammar Jemal, have lost six times in their last seven matches to remain on 24 points.
The first chance went to Cologne, with Lukas Podolski's blast from a tight angle going just over the crossbar from four yards in the sixth minute. Leverkusen took the lead after 16 minutes, though, with Stefan Reinartz heading against the right post from three yards out and Vedran Corluka nodding the rebound towards the goal before Bender poked it home.
The visitors nearly stretched the lead to 2-0 on 32 minutes, but Renato Augusto's shot from 14 yards sailed wide right.
After the break, North Korean striker Chong Tese was brought on for Milivoje Novakovic for Cologne to make his Bundesliga debut.
Bender bagged his second goal in the 50th minute as Augusto fed a beautiful pass into his path and he struck into the far right corner. Leverkusen then went close to making it 3-0 after 64 minutes, but Reinartz sent his shot over the bar from 19 yards.