Saturday June 22, 2024

Leverkusen return to top with derby win as Bayern stay on their tail

Published : 08 Oct 2023, 23:29

  By Mark Meadows, dpa
Leverkusen's Victor Boniface celebrates scoring his side's third goal with teammates during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and 1. FC Cologne at BayArena on Sunday at North Rhine-Westphalia, Leverkusen. Photo: Marius Becker/dpa.

Bayer Leverkusen surged back to the top of the Bundesliga on Sunday after a 3-0 home win over bottom side Cologne before Bayern Munich made sure they kept pace with their own 3-0 victory.

Champions Bayern outclassed Freiburg at home and sit third, two points behind Leverkusen, after Kingsley Coman's double and a goal from the in-form Leroy Sané.

VfB Stuttgart had replaced Xabi Alonso's team at the summit on Saturday but Leverkusen entered the international break in first place and condemned winless local rivals Cologne to a sixth league defeat from seven games this term.

"We are really happy to win today, we played really well, created good chances and scored three goals," Alonso, in his first major coaching job, told a news conference. "We could have had more. It's a great moment for us to celebrate a derby win."

Leverkusen started brightly and got their reward midway through the first half when Germany midfielder Jonas Hofmann finished off a well-worked move.

The result was never in doubt once Jeremie Frimpong turned in a cross at the far post on 32 minutes, with Cologne only coming close just before the break.

Victor Boniface grabbed his seventh of the league campaign on the counter-attack in the second half of a derby which lacked ferocity.

Six wins and a draw is Leverkusen's best ever start to a Bundesliga season and they look increasingly like a major challenger to Bayern, who have won the last 11 titles.

Their vibrant displays, coupled with a strong transfer window where Hofmann, fellow midfielder Granit Xhaka and Boniface all arrived, have even led to speculation that coach Alonso could be destined for former clubs Bayern or Real Madrid one day.

Shot-shy Cologne finished seventh and 11th in the previous two seasons under Steffen Baumgart but could be facing relegation scrap this term after only amassing one point so far.

Bayern stayed unbeaten like Leverkusen and fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund, who defeated Union Berlin on Saturday and are level on points with the Bavarians.

They had a slice of luck after 12 minutes against mid-table Freiburg when Coman's mis-hit cross from the right spiralled over goalkeeper Noah Atubolu and went in off the woodwork.

It was the latest misjudgment from the Freiburg-born 21-year-old, with last season's fifth-placed side badly missing their ex-keeper Mark Flekken following his move to Premier League Brentford.

The keeper could do little about the second, Sané storming forward and getting the perfect return pass from Harry Kane to prod home.

Germany winger Sané, enjoying arguably the best spell of form in his career, thought he had wonderful third before the interval but a minimal offside chalked the goal off.

Substitute Mathys Tel also had an offside goal ruled out but Coman's late deflected strike made it 3-0.

Bayern's Leon Goretzka said: "It was a good performance from us. We played the way we planned. We can be very pleased."

In the late game, Eintracht Frankfurt ended a run of five games without victory with a 2-0 success over Heidenheim in a duel of mid-table sides.

Hugo Larsson in the 39th and Ansgar Knauff were on target for Frankfurt who missed an earlier lead when Jessic Ngankam failed to convert a 30th-minute penalty.