Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong, center, celebrates after scoring the opening goal...

Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong, center, celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Cologne and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Cologne, Germany, Sunday, March 3, 2024. Credit: AP/Rolf Vennenbernd

BERLIN — Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen took another step toward winning the Bundesliga title on Sunday with a 2-0 derby win at 10-man Cologne.

Goals from Jeremie Frimpong and Álex Grimaldo in each half helped Leverkusen capitalize on Bayern Munich’s 2-2 draw at Freiburg on Friday to move 10 points clear at the top with 10 rounds remaining.

“It wasn't easy, but in the end to win here is a big step forward, and that's the goal – to move forward,” said Alonso, who took over as coach when Leverkusen was in the relegation zone in October 2022.

His team also stretched its German record unbeaten run to 34 games across all competitions this season. Leverkusen hasn't lost since a defeat to Bochum on the final day last season.

“Game by game,” Alonso replied when asked if his side can remain unbeaten for the whole season.

Midfielder Granit Xhaka said the team needs to remain focused if it wants to end Bayern's 11-year reign as German champion.

“Ten points are a lot, we have to be honest, but it's not done yet,” Xhaka said. “There are still many, many points to play for and we can't say it's decided until it can be worked out mathematically. But we have to stay as we are, stay grounded, keep working and know as a team that we'll need to collect a few more points.”

Leverkusen's head coach Xabi Alonso prior to the Bundesliga soccer...

Leverkusen's head coach Xabi Alonso prior to the Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Cologne and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Cologne, Germany, Sunday, March 3, 2024. Credit: AP/Rolf Vennenbernd

Referee Tobias Stieler was busy from the start on Sunday. He sent off Cologne’s Jan Thielmann after a VAR review in the 14th minute for stepping on the back of Xhaka’s ankle, and he booked three more players inside the first 30 minutes as the tackles flew.

Frimpong broke the deadlock in the 37th, converting from close range after some patient buildup play from Leverkusen.

Cologne emerged with more courage after the break and almost equalized in the 51st when Sargis Adamyan struck the right post with a volley.

The home fans did their best to rouse their team as the visitors seemed content to maintain possession without taking too many risks.

Leverkusen's Alejandro Grimaldo, right, celebrates after scoring his side's second...

Leverkusen's Alejandro Grimaldo, right, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Cologne and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Cologne, Germany, Sunday, March 3, 2024. Credit: AP/Rolf Vennenbernd

But Grimaldo finally sealed the result in the 73rd – again after patient buildup play.

BEIER SCORES AGAIN

Maximilian Beier scored twice for the second straight game and Hoffenheim held on to beat Werder Bremen 2-1 in the last game of the 24th round.

The 21-year-old Beier also scored two in Hoffenheim's 3-2 win at Borussia Dortmund last weekend. He took his league tally to 12 goals this season.

Hoffenheim forward Marius Bülter was sent off in the 73rd but Skelly Alvero's stoppage-time strike – his first goal for Bremen – came too late for the visitors.

Hoffenheim remained seventh, now three points clear of Bremen.

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