Leverkusen beat Cologne 2-0 in Bundesliga

AP, Saturday 25 Feb 2012

Lars Bender scored twice for Bayer Leverkusen to beat Cologne 2-0 in the Bundesliga’s Rhine derby on Saturday

Leverkusen V Cologne

Bender opened the scoring in the 16th minute and claimed his second in the 51st, thanks to an outstanding pass from Renato Augusto.

Veteran coach Otto Rehhagel’s long-awaited return to the Bundesliga could not prevent Hertha Berlin slumping to its sixth successive defeat, its seventh in all competitions.

Augsburg beat the 73-year-old coach’s side 3-0 in his first game in charge to move above the visitors and leave Hertha in the relegation playoff place.

Elsewhere, Stuttgart beat bottom side Freiburg 4-1 in a local derby, Mainz routed Kaiserslautern 4-0 and Hoffenheim won 2-1 at Wolfsburg.

Werder Bremen was scheduled to host Nuremberg later Saturday.

Not even Lukas Podolski’s return after four weeks out injured could prevent a third straight defeat for Cologne.

The Germany striker, who has scored half of Cologne’s league goals this season, fired narrowly over in the fifth.

Bender then prodded the ball in from close range to make sure Vedran Corluka’s goalward header crossed the line after Stefan Reinartz’s initial header hit the post.

Leverkusen ‘keeper Bernd Leno was lucky not to give away a penalty after clattering into Podolski to clear the ball in the 33rd, but ultimately it was poor defending from Cologne that cost the home side.

Stefan Kiessling and Renato Augusto were both involved in Bender’s second, the Germany international coolly tucking the ball beyond Michael Rensing to the far corner.

Rehhagel, who led Greece to the 2004 European Championship, was swarmed by photographers on his first Bundesliga appearance since 2000, but there was little the former Hertha Berlin player could do when Torsten Oehrl struck twice within three minutes for the home side.

South Korean midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol’s delicate touch allowed Oehrl to rifle the ball past Thomas Kraft, before the Augsburg striker sealed Hertha’s fate with his second two minutes later.

Marcel Ndjeng scored with a fine effort in injury time.

Martin Harnik scored twice in Stuttgart’s win, opening the scoring in the 12th and then crossing for Shinji Okazaki to make it 2-0 nine minutes later. Japan striker Okazaki endured a painful-looking collision with the post to reach Austrian’s cross.

Freiburg defender Fallou Diagne pulled one back with a header from a corner in the 27th, but Harnik restored Stuttgart’s three goal lead in the 82nd.

Kaiserslautern is level on points with Freiburg after its 13th game without a win.

Mohamed Zidan got Mainz off to a great start in the second minute, with his fourth goal in four consecutive games since his winter transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

Elkin Soto then cut it back for Mainz striker Adam Szalai to mark his return from an injury with a goal in the 17th, before Zidan fed Mueller on the right to blast the ball past Kevin Trapp in the 30th.

Kaiserslautern captain Christian Tiffert hit the crossbar before the break, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting piled more misery on the visitors when he made it 4-0 in the 74th.

Hoffenheim midfielder Roberto Firmino scored for the fourth time in three games against Wolfsburg with a tap in the second minute after Diego Benaglio saved from Boris Vukcevic.

Patrick Helmes celebrated his return to Wolfsburg’s starting lineup for the first time since Oct. 1 by equalizing from the penalty spot in the 69th. It was the striker’s first goal since the opening weekend after he fell out with Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath.

However, Sven Schipplock scored in the 84th to give the visitors the win.

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