Leon Bailey’s dream of playing in next season’s Champions League with Bayer Leverkusen were dashed after the Germans were dumped out of the Europa League quarter-finals against Inter Milan last night (10 August).
The Jamaican, who was 23 at the weekend, was not involved until appearing as a 59th-minute substitute. But he made little impact as the Italian heavyweights bossed the tie to move to the final four.
A trio of goals in the spate of a 10-minute opening half purple patch decided the contest at The Düsseldorf Arena in Germany. Romelu Lukaku, one of the competition’s most in-form strikers, saw his effort kept out but bounce straight into the path of Nicolo Barella to break the deadlock on the quarter-of-an-hour mark. Lukaku doubled their advantage six minutes later with Chelsea target Kai Havertz swiftly reducing the arrears.
The mouth-watering clash produced a high octane opening half, which included a spot-kick decision overturned after a VAR review that Lukaku lined up to take. And the only excitement in a dull second half saw Lukaku, chasing his 32nd goal of the season, denied another a penalty on 90 minutes following a VAR review and then rolling the ball into the back of the net only for his effort to be disallowed.
Winger Bailey, who has surprisingly been recently linked with a potential move to English Premier League (EPL) outfits Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, failed to create any buzz in front of goal. In the Europa League he has been lagging since he scored a sensational last-gasp goal against Glagow giants Rangers in March.
The Kingston-born midfielder has gone public about not seeing eye-to-eye with head coach Peter Bosz, which has probably accounted for him being constantly used as a substitute as well as the on-going rumours of EPL clubs keen to pounce.
Inter made a lively start and were overdue their opening goal. Lukaku’s shot was blocked inside the area but deflected into the path of Barella, who curled it beautifully through the crowded box and into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot.
Romelu used his strength to hold off defender Edmond Tapsoba and, despite falling to the ground, managed to turn the ball past Slovak-born Finland international keeper Lukáš Hrádecký to double their advantage.
Havertz cleverly beat the offside trap with a neat one-two before firing his shot between the legs of Slovenian shotstopper Samir Handanović on 24 minutes against the run of the play, but left the result on a knife edge.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot two minutes later, after he adjudged Daley Sinkgraven had handled, but VAR overturned the decision.
With Inter having hit cruise control Bosz had little choice but to shake things up, sending Bailey on to try to add some much-needed spark in place of Exequiel Palacios. But he was totally ineffective, and lived in the shadow of Havertz who chased every opportunity and stood head and shoulders in terms of quality over his Jamaican team-mate.
On the brink of the full-time whistle the referee, for the second time, changed his original decision about a spot-kick following another VAR review that again left Lukaku looking upset as he was eager to add to tally.
Now that Leverkusen have been knocked out of the Europa League, had they won the competition they would have earned a coveted Champions League berth, then Bosz will probably be forced to sell his star players.
German wonderkid Havertz is being courted by Chelsea, but another tame display from attacking midfielder Bailey will not have enhanced his reputation. The Jamaica’s goal seems to be to leave the German Bundesliga club, but if he continues to produce the same tepid perfomances that have become commonplace over the past 20 months then even a start on the bench will soon be an achievement.
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