Rangers up against it after rare European home defeat
Deserved Leverkusen win (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers 1 Bayer Leverkusen 3
Last 16, 1st leg
Steven Gerrard will have to mastermind his greatest result as a manager if Rangers are to extend their stay in Europe.
The Ibrox side have been immense in the Europa League under Gerrard for two seasons, producing a succession of superb performances.
However, they will have to raise that bar even higher in their return with Bayer Leverkusen, who oozed class in a deserved triumph.
The match next Thursday is scheduled to go ahead behind closed doors at the Bay Arena but the odds are stacked against Rangers continuing their adventure after slipping to their first home defeat in 18 European matches.
“I think with the way the game panned out we had a good shape about us in the first half but I wanted to see us a bit more on the front foot. A bit more aggressive. We gave them a bit too much respect within our shape,” said Gerrard.
The home side needed their big players to be on form but too many were off the boil for the majority of the game.
Rangers fell behind to a first-half penalty after a VAR handball decision against George Edmundson and fell further behind after 67 minutes when Charles Aranguiz rattled home a superb left-foot shot.
Edmundson provided hope of another unlikely late comeback when he headed home James Tavernier’s corner 15 minutes from time but those aspirations were killed off by Leon Bailey’s superb 88th-minute breakaway strike.
The Glasgow club could find themselves in trouble with UEFA after a glass bottle was thrown at Bailey as he celebrated.
“Obviously the penalty is a blow. It is a penalty because VAR is there but normally if there isn’t VAR and you can maybe get away with that one,” added Gerrard.
In the second half we did much better. We were a bit more aggressive, we were a bit more front foot and we got our rewards from that.
“At 2-1 you think you could stick in but I was extremely disappointed in the third. Polster has gone to ground and he has to take the man down and take the yellow card for the team. If he doesn’t he has to run all the way back. He actually gets back and does well but you have to be better in the one-v-one.”
Rangers now have to lift themselves for Sunday’s lunchtime meeting with Celtic, the Old Firm derby still set to go ahead in front of a packed Ibrox.