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Bayer Leverkusen's Argentine midfielder Exequiel Palacios (centre) reacts with head coach Xabi Alonso and teammates at the end of the Bundesliga match against FC Cologne in Cologne on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Bayer Leverkusen tightened their grip at the top of the Bundesliga with a 2-0 victory over 10-man Cologne to pull 10 points clear of Bayern Munich.

Xabi Alonso’s side were handed the opportunity to stretch their lead over Bayern after the serial champions faltered again, only managing a 2-2 draw at Freiburg on Friday night.

Leverkusen, who are on a German record-extending 34 games unbeaten in all competitions, made the short trip to Cologne on Sunday. They ran out deserved winners of a feisty Rhine derby, despite a spirited effort by the Bundesliga strugglers who played with 10 men from the 15th minute.

The game’s opener was crafted in the 38th minute by Alejandro Grimaldo. His low cross from the left was flicked on by Patrik Schick and stabbed in from close range by Jeremie Frimpong, for his eighth league goal of the season.

Grimaldo locked up the points in the 73rd minute, squeezing the ball in at the near post after fine work by impact substitute Amine Adli.

Rebellious mood

Forward Jan Thielmann was shown a straight red in the 15th minute after raking his studs down Granit Xhaka’s Achilles.

That decision raised the temperature inside the RheinEnergieStadion, with referee Tobias Stieler faced with a Cologne team and 40,000 home fans in rebellious mood in the early spring sunshine.

Cologne, who occupy the relegation play-off place and remain eight points adrift of safety, adjusted well after the red card and were unlucky to twice hit the post.

But Leverkusen controlled large periods of the contest as they took another step toward their first ever Bundesliga title.