A steady downpour didn't stop Germany's red company team from easily dispatching French opponents OGC Nice in their 2020/21 Europa League debut.
|Leon Bailey.||Photo: Bayer 04 Leverkusen|
For all off the talk of an inadequate squad, Peter Bosz's Werkself looked quite the functional unit in a 6-2 blowout on Thursday evening. An injury to midfield Charles Aranguiz did not bode well for the side's prospects. The Leverkusen trainer simply inserted Julian Baumgartliner into the injured Chilean's role and ran a simple 5-4-1.
The team got off to a high-flying start. Alert and eager Jamaican winger Leon Bailey latched onto a passing error from Nice keeper Walter Benitez to nearly open the scoring in 7th. The 23-year-old attacker would get on the scoresheet four minutes later with a cutting pass to Nadiem Amiri. Germany's young midfield prospect would convert for the 1-0 lead.
Five minutes after that, Argentine striker Lucas Alario would smash home a Baumgartlinger lob to put the hosts ahead 2-0. Leverkusen's attackers were very much in the mood to unleash some long-range efforts after that. Benitez had to look alive to parry further stinging shots from Bailey and Moussa Diaby.
Against the run of play, Nice would pull open back in the 31st. A poor pass from Alario enabled the visitors to set up Amine Gouiri. With time and space just outside the area. The France U21 star made no mistake in burying the finish.
Nice's goal ushered in a prolonged lull during which both sides dug in ant the ball rarely left the midfield. Gouiri shook the teams out of their slumber with a 54th minute laser that Lukas Hradecky had to acrobatically deflect. Nice seemed to be finding the seams and looked more likely to equalize.
Suddenly, another egregious goalkeeping error from Benitez afforded the Germans a chance to run away with the match. Exequiel Palacios, whom Bosz had tapped for a rare start, pressured the Nice backstop into sending a pass directly to a wide open Diaby. With all the time in the world, the 21-year-old winger took two deft touches before bulging the back of the net on the turn.
After falling behind 1-3 in 61st, Patrick Viera's men pressed hard to keep the match from escaping their grasp. A few energetic attack waves nevertheless came to nothing. Substitute Myziane Maolida only managed to hit the side netting in the 76th.
Three minutes after the last chance. the hosts opened up the floodgates. Bosz sub Karim Bellarabi threw in a sharp distance effort in the 79th. Four minutes after that, the former Germany international thought he would try his luck from even further out. A well hit diamond cutter found the back of the net via a fortunate deflection.
Bellarabi's lighting fast brace made it 5-1. Fellow sub Florian Wirtz tapped in a gorgeously put together set-up from Bailey and Diaby to make it six tallies on the evening in the 87th. Alexis Claude Maurice snatched a meaningless consolation one minute into injury time after everyone switched off.