Cologne beats Leipzig to boost Bundesliga survival hopes

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

By CIARAN FAHEY

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) Cologne showed signs of life in its fight to avoid Bundesliga relegation on Sunday, coming from behind to beat Leipzig 2-1 away.

"Today was a very important step in the right direction," said Leonardo Bittencourt, who scored Cologne's winning goal.

Jean-Kevin Augustin scored early for Leipzig after Ademola Lookman's initial effort rebounded kindly off the post, and the home side went on to waste a host of chances before Cologne recovered toward the end of the half.

Jorge Mere's equalizer was ruled offside before the break, but the visitors kept up their pressure after it. Vincent Koziello finally equalized with 20 minutes remaining on his first Bundesliga start, scoring from around 20 meters (yards) past the despairing Peter Gulacsi.

Bittencourt scored minutes later, converting at the far post after some great play from Marcel Risse to set him up.

"A nice goal, an important goal, and nice to score it after such a long time out," said Bittencourt, who was playing for the first time since November after recovering from a thigh injury.

Cologne remains bottom but is now level on points with Hamburger SV, eight points from safety with 10 games remaining.

Sixth-place Leipzig, like Bayer Leverkusen in Sunday's early game, missed the chance to go second.

Nabil Bentaleb's late penalty sealed a 2-0 win for Schalke at 10-man Bayer Leverkusen, lifting his team to third.

Leverkusen was left to rue Dominik Kohr's sending off in the first half as the home side missed the chance to go second and instead dropped to fifth, outside the Champions League qualification places.

Guido Burgstaller fired the visitors into an early lead after a long ball over the top from Daniel Caligiuri. The Schalke forward did well to lift the ball over Leverkusen defender Panagiotis Retsos before dispatching past goalkeeper Bernd Leon inside the left post.

Leon Bailey came very close to equalizing with Leverkusen's best chance of the half, but the hosts took a hit shortly before the break when Kohr was sent off with his second yellow card for a late tackle, minutes after earning his first for the same.

Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich brought on Argentine forward Lucas Alario after the break, and then went all out with two more forwards, Stefan Kiessling and Karim Bellarabi, for the closing stages.

However, the best chance fell to Schalke's Breel Embolo, denied by a brilliant reflex save from Leno.

Retsos brought down Embolo in the penalty area, allowing Bentaleb to seal the win from the spot in the 89th minute.

Updated February 25, 2018

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