Bayer Leverkusen spoiled the return of Christoph Daum to his old club, beating Cologne 2-0 in the Rhine River derby to grab the lead in the Bundesliga on Friday.
Leverkusen won with two goals in the second half, from Manuel Friedrich in the 67th minute and a Theofanis Gekas penalty with six minutes left.
The victory gave Bruno Labbadia’s Leverkusen 18 points from nine rounds, one point ahead of Hamburg and two up on Hoffenheim, who play Hamburg today.
“Winning a derby and going to the top of the standings on one night — this is a really nice night for us,” Labbadia said. “You have to compliment Cologne, who made it really tough for us. But we remained patient and it paid off. We are in the process of maturing as a young team and a win like this is important.”
The night was also special for Daum, who was celebrating his 55th birthday by coming back to the place he coached from July 1996 to October 2000. He guided Leverkusen to three second-place finishes in the Bundesliga.
Daum’s promoted Cologne had won their last three games, but remained winless against Leverkusen for 11 years to stay on 13 points.
Neither side did much early on and the game was temporarily delayed after a firecracker went off near Cologne fans as Leverkusen’s Michal Kadlec was about to take a corner kick in the 33rd minute.
Cologne missed a good chance in the 38th minute when Milovoje Novakovic’s header went just over the crossbar.
The hosts began mounting the pressure in the second half and Cologne goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon needed to make a fine stop from Patrick Helmes in the 56th minute.
But Mondragon could not stop Leverkusen when Simon Rolfes headed on a corner to Friedrich, who got away from Kevin Pezzoni and headed home the first goal.
The hosts made it 2-0 when Gekas blasted a penalty into the lower left corner of the goal after Geromel felled Pirmin Schwegler.
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