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Sports

Bundesliga: Calhanoglu brace helps Leverkusen top Hertha Berlin

Leverkusen put a dismal end to 2016 behind them with all three points to start the new year against Hertha. With Omer Toprak and a double from Hakan Calhanoglu sealing the victory.

Leverkusen 3-1 Hertha Berlin
(Toprak 12', Calhanoglu 36', 88' - Stocker 44')

Bayer Leverkusen overcame a big test to start 2017 and the second part of their Bundesliga campaign. Roger Schmidt's side became just the fourth team in the Bundesliga to score multiple goals against Hertha Berlin, who were in third place entering the matchday with the fifth-best defensive record in the division.

With German international Karim Bellarabi back in the team after missing four months with an injury, Leverkusen took a 2-0 lead in the first half. Defender Omer Toprak booted in a goal from inside the six-yard box to get things going, and Hakan Calhanoglu converted a penalty 24 minutes later after Marvin Plattenhardt handled a cross from Javier Hernandez in the penalty area.

Valentin Stocker put Hertha Berlin on the board just before the half, finishing off a deflected save from goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Vedad Ibisivic had a terrific opportunity to score the equalizer in the second half, but Leno's diving save denied Hertha's captain.

Calhanoglu sealed off the game with a terrific volley just before full time. Despite losing his footing, the Leverkusen winger volleyed home a high-arching cross from teammate Kevin Kampl with an effort that bounced into the back of the net.

The win for Leverkusen was just their second in their last seven league games, but the result propelled them up to eighth place in the Bundesliga table. Hertha Berlin fell out of the Champions League spots with the loss, falling to sixth place following their second loss in three games.

Mainz 0-0 Cologne

One would not have known by watching this game that Mainz had sold their best attacking player in January. They fired away 12 shots in the game against Cologne and put their opponents under continuous pressure, but they were unable to give their home fans a goal to celebrate.

Levin Öztunali had the first best chance in the game, weaving past three Cologne defenders before challenging goalkeeper Thomas Kessler. Jairo Sampeiro put Kessler to work again three minutes later, forcing a punch from the Cologne keeper.

Cologne had trouble keeping up with Mainz's attacking pressure. The club's leading goalscorer Anthony Modeste did not get a shot away until just before halftime, and Cologne's first chance in the second half didn't come until 20 minutes after the break. But the away side arguably had the best chance in the game when Mainz goalkeeper Jonas Lössl had trouble handling a shot from Yuya Osako from the left wing with under ten minutes to play.

Despite the goalless showing, the draw was a welcome result for Mainz, who had lost four of their previous five games coming into the matchday. Meanwhile, Cologne's streak of draws is now up to four as they fall further behind the pack at the top of the Bundesliga.