Football Features

Diaby ends a 12-year wait: The winners and losers from Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Rangers

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:25, 6 August 2020

Bayer Leverkusen booked a date with Inter Milan in the Europa League quarter-finals stage after eliminating Glasgow Rangers.

Peter Bosz’s side headed into their second-leg meeting in Germany with a 3-1 lead from the first leg and ultimately won today’s game through a second-half effort from Moussa Diaby.

Rangers were second best throughout and never really bothered the Bundesliga outfit who could have won by a bigger margin if not for an uncharacteristic performance by talisman Kai Havertz.

Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.

Winner: Moussa Diaby

He was a constant thorn in Ranger’s side from the get-go so it was inevitable that Moussa Diaby would be rewarded for his work. The 21-year-old Frenchman, who has been favourably compared to legendary Dutch winger Arjen Robben, smoothly finished off a well-timed Charles Aránguiz pass early into the second half.

Having joined from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, this was his sixth European appearance for Bayer, half of those coming in their ill-fated Champions League campaign. This effort saw him break his duck in continental competitions and Bosz, who was seen deep in conversation with Diaby during the first-half drinks break, would have been pleased with the energy he displayed ahead of their Inter showdown.

Loser: Kai Havertz

It was somewhat of a surprise to see Kai Havertz’s name in Bayer Leverkusen’s starting lineup as the incredibly talented German attacking midfielder had long been linked with a move away from his boyhood club this summer. Of course, that could still transpire, but for now he continues to learn under Bosz, who not long ago predicted the playmaker would command a transfer fee of €100 million.

On this occasion, Havertz didn’t play as someone befitting that price tag. One moment particularly stood out. After displaying exceptional spatial awareness in breaking Ranger’s offside trap, the seven-time capped German international found himself one-on-one with veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor but couldn’t seal the deal as he dragged his shot well past the goal when it should have nestled into the net.

Winner: Florian Wirtz

Making your European club football debut in August nominally means qualifying for the forthcoming season’s competition. But these are different times and Florian Wirtz, who turned 17 in May, found himself playing a Round of 16 tie. His composure, for such a young footballer, really shone and further illustrates the good work Bayer’s academy has been doing in recent weeks.

Nothing fazed the Pulheim native, who played just behind centre-forward Kevin Volland despite being more familiar on the wings, boosting the notion he could be Havertz’s in-house successor. His instinct to move with the ball never deserted him, as he’d complete more take-ons in this game by a Bayer player.

Loser: Alfredo Morelos

Rangers were always up against it with very few backing Steven Gerrard’s men to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg. That being said, with backs against the wall, you’d want your key players to lead by example and show why they have that status. There’s no question Alfredo Morelos belongs in that category for the Glaswegians.

Ever since joining from Finnish outfit HJK, the Colombian marksman has been a difference-maker in more ways than one. Just not on this occasion. Morelos often cut an isolated figure as he was forced to feed on scraps. He was taken off with 13 minutes remaining (Gerrard knowing the game was as good as gone now focusing on their league match with St. Mirren on Sunday) having not completed a single take-on or registering a shot on goal.

Winner: Peter Bosz

Three years ago Peter Bosz guided unfancied Ajax to a first Europa League final since 1992, but he couldn’t overcome Manchester United then spearheaded by willy tactician Jose Mourinho. Now the Dutch tactician will be attempting to lead Bayer all the way and in the process break their ‘Neverkusen’ tag, which resurfaced last month when Bayern Munich humbled them in the DFB-Pokal final.

This first step is pivotal as the German side last reached the quarter finals of this competition 12 years ago. Back to today’s game, Bosz, who prides himself on setting up his team correctly, should be proud of their display. Bayer had 15 shots on goal and controlled 65% of the possession. Inter up next will really test him.

Loser: Brandon Barker

It was a game to forget for Rangers attacking midfielder Brandon Barker, who across 60 minutes of action touched the ball on no fewer than 10 occasions. The 23-year-old former Manchester City academy graduate, a surprise inclusion in Gerrard’s starting lineup, looked out of his depth and was resoundingly criticised on social media.

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