Everyone knew that it would be pretty difficult for Rangers to mount a serious challenge against Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg after they fell to a 3-1 defeat at Ibrox. Still, they came to play and they came to cause an upset, even if their performance on the night didn’t always reflect that.
Leverkusen proved themselves to be the stronger of the two teams once again, finishing off the tie as a contest early in the second half courtesy of Moussa Diaby’s great run and finish. Kai Havertz had a string of good opportunities, and he even hit the bar, but it wound up finishing 1-0 on the night with the hosts taking their place in the quarter-finals thanks to a 4-1 aggregate triumph.
As is so often the case with games like this, there was a whole lot to take away from another tense evening of Europa League action.
“We’re disappointed with the result. I don’t think we found our level or performance to give it a good go tonight. The best side won and go through. Gerrard said to BT Sport. “There’s a lot we can improve on and a lot we can work on moving forward and we’ve found a level tonight to strive for. Hopefully one day we can get to that level.”
While many will agree with manager Steven Gerrard’s assessment, some fans will still be able to take some of the positives away from the game.
Did poor preparation contribute?
When we say poor preparation, we don’t mean that Rangers weren’t taking this challenge seriously – it’s just that they’ve had way more time off than Leverkusen have. Some will argue that’s a good thing, but it did feel as if there was a bit of competitive rust in their game in comparison to the German side. Again, perhaps we’re just making excuses for them, but it’s definitely a point worth noting.
Charles Aranguiz was at the heart of pretty much everything for Leverkusen, and if they didn’t have the Chilean on the pitch last night, there would’ve been a real lack of quality or any kind of cohesion. His energy, tackling and slick passing was a key reason why they got the win on the night, and he even produced the setup for Diaby’s goal.
Inter Milan awaits
It’s going to be a tough ask, but in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Bayer Leverkusen will go head to head with Italian giants, and one of the favourites to win the Europa League, Inter Milan. Leverkusen are currently priced at 23/10 by Betfair to win the match and make it into the semi-finals, but they’ll have to dig deep.
Rangers’ brave run
This insane 13-month run for Rangers began on July 9 last year with a win over St Joseph’s, and the fact that they’ve been able to take it this far is a testament to them as a team and Gerrard as a manager. It’s not easy to mix it up with Europe’s elite all the time, and while some will say they’ve been fortunate to get to this point, that clearly isn’t true. They’ve beaten some strong teams and they’ve looked good doing it – and now, the focus can shift to what they can accomplish next season.
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky (6.5), Sinkgraven (7), Tapsoba (8), S. Bender (7), L. Bender (7), Palacios (7), Aranguiz (7.5), Diaby (7), Wirtz (7), Havertz (7), Volland (6.5), Stanilewicz (6), Bailey (6), Tah (6), Dragovic (6.5)
Rangers: McGregor (6), Tavernier (6.5), Goldson (7), Helander (7), Barisic (7), Jack (6.5), Davis (6), Aribo (6), Barker (5.5), Kent (6), Morelos (6), Patterson (6), Stewart (6), Jones (6), Hagi (6.5)
Referee: Danny Makkelie
Yellow Cards: Tah, Sinkgraven, Aranguiz, Barker, Hagi
Red Cards: N/A
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