Head coach Xabi Alonso opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation in the friendly against the Scottish side. Captain Lukas Hradecky played behind a back four of Daley Sinkgraven, Edmond Tapsoba, Jonathan Tah and youngster Ayman Azhil. Kerem Demirbay and Robert Andrich lined up in midfield alongside Amine Adli, Zidan Sertdemir, Moussa Diaby plus Adam Hlozek in attack from the start.
Keeper Niklas Lomb, Mitchel Bakker, Odilon Kossounou, Nadiem Amiri, Karim Bellarabi, the U19 players Madi Monamay, Isaiah Okafor and Noah Pesch plus Florian Wirtz started on the bench. The 19-year-old return to the Werkself squad for the first time.
The first real chance of the game fell to the Werkself on 12 minutes: A corner from Demirbay found the head of Tah but the 40-year-old Rangers keeper Allan McGregor was able to make the save. The game took off after that. Three minutes later, it was the Rangers forward Malik Tillman who opened the scoring for the hosts on 15 minutes with a volley from close range from a cross from the right.
Rangers continued to press after the opener and again and again caused trouble for the Leverkusen defence in counter-attacks. On 21 minutes, it was Tillman again who beat Tapsoba in an aerial duel from a corner to head into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
The Alonso team settled down as the game went on and were more often in the opposition half. The second big chance for Leverkusen fell to Adli on 38 minutes when he was put through down the left flank with a diagonal ball from Sinkgraven but his shot from a tight angle only found the side netting. The Scottish team under new head coach Michael Beale dropped back after scoring the second goal and were more defensive. Rangers took the 2-0 lead into half-time.
There were several changes for both sides for the restart: For the Black and Reds, Bakker came on for Sinkgraven, Kossounou for Azhil, Amiri for Sertdemir as well as Bellarabi for Diaby. However, it was the Beale team who had the first chance of the second half: Substitute Scott Arfield looked to finish in a one-on-one with Hradecky but the Finland keeper made a fine save with his foot to keep his team in the game.
With 62 minutes on the clock, Florian Wirtz made his comeback after recovering from his cruciate injury in March. The midfielder replaced Demirbay. Other good news: Ten minutes later, the U19 players Isaiah Okafor, Madi Monamay and Noah Pesch made their debuts for the Werkself. And the youngsters made their mark straightaway. Wirtz picked out teammate Pesch on the left but the Scottish defence was able to make a last-ditch clearance (76').
At the other end, referee Robertson awarded a penalty to Rangers for a foul by Bakker on Alfredo Morelos. James Tavernier stepped up to take the spot kick but his effort hit the right-hand post (81'). But the third goal did come:Arfield was on the ball again with two minutes to play when he was able to make it 3-0 for Rangers.
The Werkself are travelling straight back to Leverkusen after the match at Ibrox. Hradecky and Co. have the day off tomorrow before the final week of training including a friendly against FC Zürich on Saturday 17 September (kick-off: 13.00 CET at the Ulrich Haberland stadium).
Rangers: McGregor (McLaughlin 46') – Devine (Fraser 84’), Kamara (Davis 46'), King (McCann 84’), Tavernier – Jack (Wright 46'), Sands – Kent, Tillman (Arfield 46'), Matondo (Sakala 46', Lowry 71’) – Colak (Morelos 46')
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Sinkgraven (Bakker 46'), Tapsoba, Tah (Monamay 73’), Azhil (Kossounou 46') – Demirbay (Wirtz 62’), Andrich (Pesch 73’) – Adli, Sertdemir (Amiri 46'), Diaby (Bellarabi 46') – Hlozek (Okafor 73’)
Goals: 0-1 Tillmann (15’), 0-2 Tillmann (21’), 0-3 Arfield (88’)
Referee: Don Robertson (Scotland)
Attendance: 25,000 at Ibrox
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