Friedhelm Funkel's new-look Geißböcke showed plenty of fight, but it was Leverkusen's re-invigorated winners who carried the day in the late match at the BayArena.
|Leon Bailey.||Photo: Bayer 04 Leverkusen|
A 3-0 victory for Germany's red company team propelled Leverkusen back into the race for the top four while the Kölner crisis deepened despite some serious effort on behalf of captain Jonas Hector and others. New cathedral city coach Friedhelm Funkel had less to work with than his predecessor. Lead striker Sebastian Andersson had to rejoin the the ranks of the injured reserves after his promising comeback last week. Moreover, team talisman Ondrej Duda was forced to sit the encounter out on an accumulated yellow card suspension.
The resulting 4-2-3-1 was spearheaded by striker Emmanuel Dennis; a player previous trainer Markus Gisdol had often criticized for inconsistent work ethic. New Bundesliga returnee Max Meyer buttressed directly as the ten. Interim B04 trainer Hannes Wolf also had some new additions. Wolf reintroduced Leon Bailey, Patrik Schick, and Nadiem Amiri following a listless offensive performance last Monday against Hoffenheim.
Bailey and his left flank partner Moussa Diaby rediscovered some of their mutual magic from earlier in the season. The latter set up the former in the 5th minute for Bailey's first-ever headed goal in a Bundesliga uniform. Despite the early goal, the visiting Domstädter fought back to look unquestionably the better team during the opening 45. Captain Hector headed barely wide in the 20th.
In the 36th, Funkel's men were awarded a free kick at the very edge of the box on decision that came within millimeters of being a penalty. Hector hit the post on the ensuing free kick. So convincing were Köln during the first half that it was Wolf who employed a double change at the break. Bayer doubled their advantage, however, when familiar faces Diaby and Bailey once again combined on a counter.
This time the Jamaican set up the Frenchman for a 2-0 lead in the 51st. Now two goals down, the Geißböcke still refused to let their heads hang low. Florian Kainz and Marius Wolf did well on their respective wings, even if ideas up the middle were scarce. Unfortunately, all the pressing enabled Bailey to score again on the 76th.
Florian Kainz and the absolutely snake-bit Hector hit the post again in the second half. For the second consecutive week, a very good effort from Köln simply wasn't good enough. It does get any easier for the relegation candidates as they must now face Leipzig midweek.