Berlin, Feb 28 (IANS) Bayern Munich returned to winning ways in the league and cemented its top spot after Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry provided a brace each to down Cologne 5-1 on home soil in the 23rd round in the Bundesliga.
Both sides started highly motivated into the encounter, but Bayern needed no warm-up time and opened the scoring with just 18 minutes gone when Leon Goretzka’s pass into the box found Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting, who tapped the opener home from five meters, Xinhua news reports.
After the opener, Bayern gained momentum while Cologne had to focus on its defensive work as Lewandowski unleashed a dangerous header on target in the 25th minute on Saturday.
Bayern’s top striker remained in the thick of things as he doubled the advantage in the 34th minute after Goretzka’s second assist allowed Lewandowski to mark his 27th goal of the season.
The hosts retracted but were still able to take the two-goal advantage into halftime as Cologne lacked in penetration.
After the restart, Cologne piled on the pressure and punished Bayern for its passiveness as Ellyes Skhiri capitalized on a blackout from Bayern defenders Jerome Boateng and David Alaba before chipping the ball over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 49th minute.
Cologne grew in confidence as the game clock ticked whereas Bayern coach Hansi Flick reacted and put on Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller.
The substitutions paid off as Muller teed up for Lewandowski, who wrapped up his brace and 28th goal of the season after beating Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn with a one-timer into the bottom right corner in the 65th minute.
Nevertheless, Bayern invited Cologne to reduce the arrears as Neuer got dispossessed inside the box but for all that substitute Dominick Drexler couldn’t find the empty goal from a tight angle in the 75th minute.
Bayern responded well and put the result beyond doubt with two quick goals from Gnabry. The German international poked home Lucas Hernandez’s square pass before he made the most of Goretzka’s third assist of the day in the closing period.
With the result, front runners Bayern Munich establish a five-point advantage atop the standings for the moment meanwhile Cologne stays on the 14th place.
Elsewhere, a first-half brace from Wataru Endo paved the way for Stuttgart’s 5-1 victory over last placed Schalke.
Third placed Wolfsburg overpowered relegation threatened Hertha Berlin 2-0 and Borussia Dortmund eased 3-0 past newly promoted Arminia Bielefeld.
In the opener of the 23rd round in Bundesliga on Friday Werder Bremen ended Eintracht Frankfurt’s eleven-game unbeaten streak after Theodor Gebre Selassie and Joshua Sargent were on target in the second half to turn the tides. Andre Silva had put Frankfurt in lead in the 9th minute.