Bayer Leverkusen put six goals past French Ligue 1 side Nice to open their UEFA Europa League campaign with a win with Nadiem Amiri, Lucas Alario, Moussa Diaby, Florian Wirtz and two from Karim Bellarabi.
Leverkusen came flying out of the blocks against their French opposition in the pouring rain at the BayArena, with Amiri taking just 11 minutes to find the opener as he slotted the ball home having latched onto Leon Bailey's inch-perfect through ball. Five minutes later and the lead was doubled in emphatic fashion. Alario controlled Julian Baumgartlinger's ball into the box, turning onto his left foot and smashing the ball in off the upright in style. Diaby forced a save from Walter Benitez which seemed to hand a wake-up call to the visitors. Nice responded well and got a ball back through Amine Gouiri's strike past Lukas Hradecky after the half-hour mark. The Ligue 1 outfit ended the first half on top, but Hradecky was yet to be brought into action having seen the only shot on target find the back of the net.
The Leverkusen shot-stopper had work to do 10 minutes into the second half, though, saving from Gouiri's long-range strike. Leverkusen took their time to get going at the other end of the pitch but made the most of their first chance of the half when it came their way. Superb pressing from Exequiel Palacios allowed him to knick the ball from Morgan Schneiderlin's foot on the edge of his own box. The loose ball ran perfectly for Diaby, who duly slotted home from 10 yards to double Leverkusen's lead for a second time. The points were sealed in superb fashion when substitute Bellarabi brought down a corner cleared to the edge of the Nice box and hit a low shot back across goal beyond the reach of Benitez. Just four minutes later and Bellarabi made it five with his brace once again on the end of a cleared corner the winger fired a low shot at goal, which wrong-footed Benitez thanks to a deflection on the way. Wirtz then got in on the act, poking home from Diaby's cross for his goal in Europe before Alexis Claude-Maurice got a consolation goal for the visitors in the final minutes as Leverkusen went top of Group C in style.
- Leverkusen beat Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Rangers on the way to last season's Europa League quarter-finals, where they were edged 2-1 by Inter Milan.
- Diaby, Amiri and Bellarabi scored their first goals of the season for Leverkusen.
- This was the first competitive meeting between these two sides. Leverkusen last met Ligue 1 opposition in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League group stage, where they beat Monaco 3-0 at home after a 1-1 draw in the principality.
- Dante won three Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, making his way to Nice via a single season at Wolfsburg with nine major honours to his name.
- Nice midfielder Khephren Thuram is the younger brother of Borussia Mönchengladbach forward Marcus.
Leverkusen: Hradecky - L. Bender (c) (Dragovic 82'), S. Bender (Tah 82'), Tapsoba, Wendell - Palacios (Wirtz 74'), Baumgartlinger - Bailey, Amiri, Diaby - Alario (Bellarabi 74')
Unused subs: Grill, Lomb, Demirbay, Jedvaj, Sinkgraven, Gedikli
Out: Arias (ankle), Paulinho (knee), Schick (thigh)
Coach: Peter Bosz
Nice: Benitez - Bambu, Dante (c), Nsoki (Lopes 63') - Lotomba (Atal 79'), Boudaoui (Claude-Maurice 63'), Schneiderlin, Lees-Melou (Ndoye 79'), Kamara - Dolberg (Maolida 71'), Gouiri
Unused subs: Cardinale, Daniliuc, Coly, Thuram, Danilo, Pelmard, Trouillet
Out: Reine-Adelaide (calf)
Coach: Patrick Vieira
As it happened!
Well, what a win that was from Leverkusen. Four second half goals taking them away from Nice in style to earn all three points and go top of Group C after one game. Hapoel Be'er Sheva beat Slavia Prague 3-1 in the other game this evening.
90' - A GOAL BACK FOR NICE
Claude-Maurice slots the ball home from inside the Leverkusen box after a few missed tackles and failed clearances in the final minutes. We're now into two minutes added time here.
87' - GOAL! IT'S SIX AND WIRTZ HAS ONE!
This is incredible from Leverkusen who are showing no mercy against Nice. Diaby is found on the left flank and he cuts the ball across goal from just inside the box with Wirtz perfectly placed to poke the ball into the back of the net.
83' - GOAL! BELLARABI AGAIN!
It's five for Leverkusen and two for Bellarabi off the bench. Another corner cleared out to the edge, where Bellarabi controls all of 25 yards from goal before smashing a low shot at goal. It takes a deflection, which wrong-foots the goalkeeper and sees the ball nestle in the back of the net.
79' - GOAL! BELLARABI MAKES IT FOUR!
That should seal the three points for Leverkusen as Bellarabi superbly brings down a cleared corner with one touch to his right past a defender and into space. He then hits it low back across goal and into the far bottom corner.
74' - DOUBLE CHANGE
The first substitutions of the game from Leverkusen as Florian Wirtz and Karim Bellarabi come on, replacing Exequiel Palacios and Lucas Alario. Wirtz making his Europa League debut aged just 17.
65' - KEEPING CALM
Leverkusen will want to make sure they don't let the game go Nice's way here, as they did in the first half having extended their lead to two for the second time. A double change has been made by Patrick Vieira, bringing on Lopes and Claude-Maurice to join the Nice midfield.
61' - GOAL! DIABY DOUBLES THE LEAD AGAIN!
Leverkusen are back to a two-goal lead and it's fantastic work from Palacios to make it happen. He is pressing high, and wins the ball from Schneiderlin's heavy first touch on the edge of his own box. Diaby picks up the loose ball in achers of space, 10 yards from goal, and slots it into the bottom corner with his weaker right foot.
57' - WENDELL BOOKED
The Brazilian chases Lees-Melou across the pitch and goes to block his pass, but gives a foul in the process according to the referee. He's the third Leverkusen man with a yellow card so far.
55' - GOOD SAVE FROM HRADECKY
Gouiri picks up possession in space and drives at goal, moving onto his right foot and shooting at goal. Hradecky makes a solid diving save to his left, pushing the ball behind. The first bit of action for the Leverkusen No.1 in this game.
53' - MORE A 4-3-3 NOW
Amiri is dropping deeper into midfield in this second half, alongside Palacios and ahead of Baumgartlinger, supporting a three-man attack with Bailey, Alario and Diaby across the top.
50' - FIRST BOOKING FOR NICE
Nsoki is the man cautioned for a tactical foul on Bailey, pulling the Jamaican back while in possession.
46' - SECOND HALF UNDERWAY!
No changes at the break for either side as the ball is rolling again for the second half here in Leverkusen, where the rain has now stopped.
Leverkusen with the better of the first half of the opening 45 minutes, but Nice responded midway through and certainly ended that period on the up. Amiri and Alario were clinical with their chances to give Leverkusen a two-goal lead before the hosts relaxed a little too much, and Nice came back with a goal of their own. We're set for a very interesting second half.
45' - LARS BENDER BOOKED
A foul on Kamara from the Leverkusen captain just before the break in a dangerous position and he is the second player cautioned.
41' - KAMARA OFF THE POST
Leverkusen win the ball back on the right but lose it won't again when attempting to pass their way out of trouble. Kamara latches onto the ball and races into the penalty area before striking at goal. Hradecky is in the perfect place and sees it bounce wide off the post.
40' - BAUMGARTLINGER YELLOW CARD
The Austrian midfielder has been cautioned for a foul on the far side of the pitch, looking to push the ball out of playing but catching a Nice player.
35' - FOOT OFF THE GAS
Leverkusen have just taken their foot off the gas here in the last few minutes since conceding and have lost that midfield control they had previously. Palacios and Amiri are going in search of touches on the ball, which was a huge reason why they took that early two-goal lead. 10 minutes to go until half-time, it will be important to keep these lead now into the break.
31' - NICE GET ONE BACK
From nowhere the away side have a goal back. A tidy finish from Gouiri who controls Nsoki's low cross to the edge of the box from the left before firing the ball beyond Hradecky into the far bottom corner.
30' - KEEPING THE PRESSURE ON
Leverkusen's control hasn't waivered here, with the defence winning challenges high up the pitch and the home side's midfield - made up of Diaby, Amiri, Baumgartlinger, Palacios and Bailey without the ball - is proving a tough nut to crack, too.
25' - MORE FROM BAYER!
Quality build-up play from the home side as Amiri forces a pass into Palacios in front of the Nice defence, and he has the awareness to send a first-time ball through towards Diaby on the left flank. He looks up to see Bailey alone at the back post and tries to find him, but his pass is a slow one and is intercepted. The Frenchman then smashes a shot at goal from the ensuing corner which Benitez grabs onto in the Nice goal.
20' - PERFECT START
Leverkusen's defence looks solid and their attack is purring so far with two goals in the opening 16 minutes. Bosz will be delighted with the start his side has made here and will want to make sure they don't get complacent with the scoreline. Alario is having plenty of joy against the Nice defence so far, and Palacios is enjoying his time in midfield.
16' - GOAL! WHAT A FINISH FROM ALARIO!
Unbelievable strike from the Argentine striker to double the lead early on here in Leverkusen. Palacios collects a pass from Wendell 25 yards from goal and floats a ball into the box for Alario to bring down. He turns onto his left foot at a tight angle, around 10 yards from goal, and smashes the ball into the net off the crossbar. No chance for Benitez with that one!
11' - GOAL! AMIRI FINISHES THIS TIME!
Bailey sends a perfect through ball for Amiri through the Nice defence and he duly slots the ball past Benitez back across goal. A lovely finish to open the scoring.
10' - AMIRI HAS A GO
Leverkusen's No.10 goes for goal with a free-kick from range but it goes straight at Benitez in the Nice goal. The first attempt on target of the game.
5' - GETTING USED TO THE CONDITIONS
Both sides getting on the ball early on here with the midfield a busy place right now. Alario working hard to hold up possession when he gets it, with Leverkusen looking to have most of the ball in the early goings. Bailey is starting out on the right flank, with Diaby on the left.
1' - KICK-OFF!
The ball is rolling here in a soaking Leverkusen with the Bundesliga side getting us underway.
WATCH OUT FOR THE WEATHER
It's fair to say that winter has arrived in Germany and there's been a turn in the weather, especially in the last half an hour or so at the BayArena. Rain is pouring at monsoon levels in Leverkusen, so look out for some slick passing play from both sides with wet ground to play on.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
These two sides have not met before, but this is Leverkusen's 18th game against French opposition in Europe. They have six wins, four draws and seven defeats. At home, it's five wins from nine. The last of those games in this competition was a 3-0 win over Lens in 2007.
BUILDING ON THEIR WIN
Leverkusen have started this season unbeaten domestically, but after a season-opening 7-0 win over FC Eintracht Norderstedt in the Cup, they drew their first three league games before grabbing their first win against Mainz on Saturday. Three goals for and two against in their four games so far. Despite having some new faces in the line-up tonight, Bosz will be hoping that consistent start to the campaign can continue this evening.
NICE THIS SEASON SO FAR
Ligue 1 side Nice are further into their season than Leverkusen, with seven games played and 13 points earned so far, sitting fourth in the table. They've won their last two games as well, against Nantes and Saint-Etienne.
LEVERKUSEN TEAM NEWS
You can see Peter Bosz's squad for tonight's game which has three changes from the side that beat Mainz 1-0 on Saturday. Wendell comes in to start at left-back, ahead of Daley Sinkgraven. Meanwhile, it's a new defensive midfield pair for the hosts with Exequiel Palacios and Julian Baumgartlinger in for Kerem Demirbay and captain Charles Aranguiz. Former captain Lars Bender, is taking the armband in the Chilean's stead.
CONTINUING GERMANY'S STRONG WEEK?
It's been a good week for Bundesliga teams in Europe so far, with Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig winning their opening UEFA Champions League group stage games. Meanwhile, Borussia Mönchengladbach missed out on a dramatic win at Inter Milan after conceding a last-minute equaliser, and Borussia Dortmund fell to defeat against Lazio.
It's time for European action again for Bayer Leverkusen as the Bundesliga side host Nice of France in their first UEFA Europa League group stage match. Hoffenheim are the other German-based club in action tonight and they will take on Red Star Belgrade later this evening.
Watch: Alario on target as Leverkusen down Mainz