Kai Havertz, Charles Aranguiz and Leon Bailey were all on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win away to Rangers on Thursday, putting Bayer Leverkusen firmly in the driving seat of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 tie.
Rangers 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen
Goals: 0-1 Havertz (pen. 37'), 0-2 Aranguiz (67'), 1-2 Edmundson (75'), 1-3 Bailey (89')
Leverkusen went into the game with nine victories from their previous 11 competitive outings in 2020 and began with the confidence of a side in the habit of winning. They had the first sight of goal just 90 seconds in when Kerem Demirbay floated a deep cross to the back post, where Karim Bellarabi volleyed over under pressure from 10 yards out. Die Werkself remained the better side throughout the half, enjoying 72 per cent of possession by the interval, but struggled to get behind a deep-lying home side. The one time they did do so led to a goal, when George Edmundson struggled to deal with a high ball over the defence, eventually handling Charles Aranguiz’s cross and giving Leverkusen a penalty after the referee consulted the VAR pitchside monitor. Havertz stepped up and coolly dispatched the spot-kick to put Bosz’s side deservedly ahead following a one-sided first 45 minutes.
It was more of a contest in the second half as Rangers were roared on by the home crowd, and they had two good opportunities to equalise through Alfredo Morelos. Lukas Hradecky made a brilliant save at his near post to keep out the Colombian forward’s shot, before Jonathan Tah made a vital sliding tackle on the edge of the six-yard box to prevent a tap-in. The visitors doubled their lead shortly after that through a fine strike from Aranguiz, who also hit the bar with a stunning free-kick, but Rangers did eventually pull a goal back when Edmundson headed in from a corner. Bailey landed what could well be the knockout blow in the last minute, though, curling in a third to put Bosz’s men firmly in control of the tie.
- Following his two goals against Porto in the last round, Havertz has now scored six in just nine Europa League appearances.
- Leverkusen won the UEFA Cup - the predecessor to the Europa League - in 1998 and were runners-up in the UEFA Champions League in 2001/02.
- Rangers are the last surviving Scottish team in continental competition. Germany have five teams still involved (Bayern, RB Leipzig, Frankfurt, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen).
- Injured striker Kevin Volland is Leverkusen's top scorer in the Bundesliga with nine. In Europe, Havertz leads the way with three.
- Leverkusen coach Bosz took former club Ajax to the Europa League final in 2016/17.
- VfB Stuttgart are the last German club to face Rangers in UEFA competition, triumphing 2-0 in Glasgow and drawing 1-1 at home in the group stage of the 2009/10 Champions League.
Rangers: McGregor - Tavernier (c) (Polster 85'), Edmundson, Goldson, Barisic - Kamara (Hagi 68'), Arfield, Davis - Aribo (Kamberi 53'), Morelos, Kent
Unused subs: Foderingham, Ojo, Halliday, Katic
Out: Defoe (calf), Helander (foot), Jack (knee)
Coach: Steven Gerrard
Leverkusen: Hradecky - Tah, Dragovic, Tapsoba (Paulinho 68') - Weiser, Aranguiz, Wendell - Bellarabi (Bailey 62'), Havertz (c), Demirbay (Baumgartlinger 82') - Diaby
Unused subs: Özcan, Palacios, Stanilewicz, Azhil
Out: Amiri (shoulder), S. Bender (knee), Volland (foot), L. Bender (thigh), Alario (shoulder)
Coach: Peter Bosz
As it happened!
FULL TIME! BIG WIN FOR LEVERKUSEN
A win and three away goals puts Leverkusen very much in the driving seat in this tie. They were good value for the win too, especially after dominating the first half. Rangers put up more of a fight after the break and scored a nice goal, but ultimately the Bundesliga side's quality in the final third shone through.
89' GOAL! BAILEY GETS A THIRD!
That makes things very hard for Rangers to come back in the tie now. Diaby feeds Bailey on the left-hand edge of the penalty area. The Jamaican cuts inside onto his weaker right foot and curls a lovely shot inside the far post.
88' HRADECKY OFF HIS LINE
The Leverkusen goalkeeper is alert and dashes out of his area to clear a long ball forward as Rangers push for an equaliser.
85' LAST SUB FOR RANGERS
Polster comes on for Tavernier.
82' FINAL CHANGE FOR LEVERKUSEN
Bosz looks like he wants to hold onto the lead with this change, taking off the more attack-minded Demirbay for a holding midfielder in Baumgartlinger.
80' ARANGUIZ HITS THE BAR!
Bailey is barged off the ball by Kent on the left-hand corner of the Rangers penalty box. Aranguiz takes the resulting free-kick and bends it over the ball and onto the crossbar. So close!
78' CLOSE FROM BARISIC
Wendell gives away a free-kick on the edge of the Leverkusen area and Barisic lines it up. He curls a very good shot over the wall towards goal. It looks like it might squirm in - Hradecky is diving at full stretch just in case - but it flies just wide of the post.
75' GOAL! EDMUNDSON PULLS ONE BACK!
Rangers are back in it! They win a corner on the right and when it's swung into the middle, Edmundson is completely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, glancing a header just inside the back post.
70' PERFECT TIMING FROM LEVERKUSEN
Aranguiz's strike came just at the right time from a Werkself perspective, as Rangers were working up a head of steam and building towards a goal, having twice gone close through Morelos this half. Going 2-0 down instead of being level at 1-1 will be a big blow.
67' GOAL! ARANGUIZ DOUBLES LEVERKUSEN'S LEAD
Diaby causes havoc in the Rangers box with a curling ball into the middle. It's half-cleared to the edge of the box, but the ball falls right at the feet of Aranguiz, who drives a low first-time shot into the corner. A very tidy finish from the Chilean.
66' DAVIS CLEARS OFF THE LINE!
Rangers can't deal with a deep corner from the right and the ball bounces up nicely for Aranguiz, who tries a sideways scissor-kick from about 10 yards out. It's heading right for the top corner, but Davis is on the line to head clear!
63' HUGE TACKLE FROM TAH!
Wendell gets caught in possession on the edge of his own penalty area and suddenly Rangers are in. A ball is played across the six-yard box towards Morelos, but Tah just manages to out-muscle him and slide in to clear the danger.
62' ON COMES BAILEY
Peter Bosz has reacted to the swing in momentum towards Rangers, and has brought on Leon Bailey for Karim Bellarabi.
58' BETTER FROM RANGERS
The introduction of Kamberi a few moments ago has breathed new life into the hosts and they're looking a lot more active and energetic now. They're winning more of the 50-50 challenges than they did in the first half and are playing with greater confidence going forward.
55' HRADECKY DENIES MORELOS!
This is by far Rangers' best chance of the game! A lovely ball is slotted into Morelos' path in the inside right channel. The Colombian forward hold off Tah and smashes a shot towards the near post. It's going in, but Hradecky reacts brilliantly and tips it wide for a corner.
52' PROMISING MOVE AGAIN
Leverkusen again manage to get behind the Rangers defence, and again it's the result of quick one-touch passing down the right. Bellarabi's attempted cross is cut out, but the away side seem to be getting plenty of joy down that side of the pitch now.
49' LOVELY FROM LEVERKUSEN
Swift interplay in the Rangers half ends with Bellarabi getting to the byline down the right and lifting his head, seeing Havertz and Diaby in the middle. He tries to cross for the latter on the edge of the six-yard box, but it's just headed clear. Still, that was very encouraging stuff from the away side.
46' SECOND HALF
Rangers get the action under way one more!
HALF-TIME! LEVERKUSEN DESERVEDLY AHEAD
It's been pretty much one-way traffic towards the Rangers goal so far, with Havertz, Diaby, Bellarabi and Demirbay all looking sharp and constantly changing positions. They haven't had too many clear-cut chances, but Havertz's penalty has given them a merited lead at the break. Rangers haven't really troubled Hradecky at the other end at all.
40' RANGERS APPEAL
The hosts want a penalty following a high ball into the box, claiming handball off Tah, but it comes off his back and the referee rightly waves play on.
37' GOAL! HAVERTZ GIVES LEVERKUSEN THE LEAD!
There are deafening boos from the home crowd in an effort to put Havertz off, but the Germany international holds his nerve and coolly slots the ball low into the corner, sending McGregor the wrong way.
36' PENALTY TO LEVEKRUSEN!
The referee points to the spot!
33' GLIMPSE OF AN OPENING
Edmundson misjudges a long ball over the top, to the right of centre. Aranguiz tries to cross into the middle and when his effort is blocked, Bellarabi tries it too. It's also blocked for a corner.
However, the referee gets a word in his ear about a potential penalty for handball when Aranguiz's attempt hit Edmundson's arm. He's checking the pitchside monitor...
29' YELLOW FOR DEMIRBAY
A surging run from Kamara in the middle of the park draws a roar of approval from the crowd. If he can slip between two Leverkusen players it could be dangerous, but Demirbay chops him down and gets a booking for his trouble. He'll also be suspended for the second leg.
25' PROMISE FOR RANGERS
The home side have put together a couple of neat moves in midfield as they look to break out of Leverkusen's stranglehold, but they break down long before they can get anywhere near Hradecky's goal.
22' DEMIRBAY TESTS MCGREGOR
It's the first time the Rangers goalkeeper is really called into action, even if it is a comfortable save. Leverkusen work the ball into the middle from the left and Demirbay lines up a shot from the edge of the box. He strikes it well, but it lacks power and precision to beat the keeper from there.
19' YELLOW CARD FOR KAMARA
The Rangers man goes into the referee's book for a late tackle on Weiser. He'll now miss the second leg of this tie through suspension.
16' LEVERKUSEN ON TOP
Bosz's men have had 74 per cent of possession and had three attempts at goal so far, while Rangers haven't had a single one. No goals as yet though.
12' NO RESPITE FOR RANGERS
Leverkusen are pressing high up the pitch and denying their hosts any room to breathe. Rangers can't really get out of their own half right now.
9' WIDE FROM BELLARABI
The Leverkusen winger finds space at the back post once again as a cross from the left comes to him via Havertz. He take a shot first time, but it's deflected wide for a corner.
5' NOISY HOME CROWD
The home supporters are getting behind their side, roaring them on in unison with every tackle won. Kent looks lively down the left wing for a brief moment, but he's soon hounded out and Leverkusen clear their lines comfortably.
2' CHANCE FOR BELLARABI!
A brilliant opportunity for Leverkusen just 90 seconds into the game as Demirbay delivers a superb ball from deep to the back post. It lands right on the foot of Bellarabi, about 10 yards from goal, but he can't keep his volley down and it goes well over.
Havertz gets the ball rolling. Here we go!
HAVERTZ UP FRONT?
Kevin Volland usually starts in the lone striker's role for Leverkusen, but his injury had given Lucas Alario a chance to stake a claim for more regular first-team football. However, the Argentinian also now also injured with a shoulder complaint, leaving Die Werkself a bit short of a recognised senior striker.
Paulinho scored a brace against Frankfurt at the weekend, deputising brilliantly up front, but he's on the bench today. Could we therefore see Havertz in an unfamiliar role?
2.72 GOALS PER GAME
Leverkusen have won nine of their 11 games in the second half of the season, losing only to Hoffenheim on Matchday 20 and drawing with RB Leipzig on Matchday 24.
They've beaten Porto (twice), Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt, among others, and are averaging 2.72 goals per game in 2020.
THIRD TIME LUCKY FOR LEVERKUSEN?
The teams have met just twice previously, doing so in the second round of the UEFA Cup in 1998. Rangers won 2-1 in Leverkusen in the first leg, before they drew 1-1 in Glasgow. Can Die Werkself get a first win today?
HELLO AND WELCOME!
Can Leverkusen take their blistering form into the Europa League once more? Peter Bosz's side are flying right now and are on a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competitions.
And after beating a tough Porto side in the previous round, they'll not fear anyone in the competition.