Europe: Europa League
2 - 3
(1 - 2)
H. Kamara (26), D. Ndoye (46)
M. Diaby (22), A. Dragović (32), J. Baumgartlinger (51)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Leverkusen hold off OGC Nice, book passage to UEL Knockouts

Bayer 04 Leverkusen became the fourth German club to assure themselves of spring European football with a 3-2 win away at OGC Nice on Thursday evening. 
A Nice side plagued by injuries and doubts over whether French legend Patrick Viera would continue on as trainer still managed to give Germany's Werkself a good fight at the Allianz Riviera. 

Peter Bosz's XI featured a much stronger cast. Patrick Schick and Moussa Diaby started together up front together with the returning Karim Bellarabi. Nadiem Amiri also returned from injury to play a supporting role in a typical Bosz 4-1-4-1.

Lording over the lion's share of possession for much of the opening quarter of a hour, Germany's red company team nevertheless found it difficult to attain much penetrative power. An incredible finish from Diaby in the 22nd finally put the guests ahead. A wonderful chip ball from Kerem Demirbay was met with an even more sumptuous first-time trike off the volley from the Frenchman.

Two minutes later, Leverkusen felt for certain they had the 2-0. A Patrik Schick goal, however, was disallowed in the 24th on a very tight and controversial offside call. Nice then equalized off a free-kick in the 26th when Lars Bender inadvertently directed the ball right onto the boot of Hassane Kamara.

To their credit, the German representatives did not sulk after the questionable refereeing decision and the deflating equalizer. They continued to press offensively with Demirbay forcing keeper Walter Benitez into an acrobatic save at the half-hour mark.

Alexandra Dragovic converted an Amiri corner in the 32nd to once again put Leverkusen ahead. Bosz's men continued to pummel their opponents with a flurry of chances before the half.

Unexpectedly, Nice equalized again two minutes after the re-start. Again, the goal game from an unfortunate lapse on a set-piece. Keeper Lukas Hradecky couldn't hold on to a Jeff Reine-Adelaide thunderbolt off a dead ball. Dan Ndoye happily steered home the rebound to make it 2-2.

Leverkusen gained their third lead of the night through their own set piece conversion. Julian Baumgartlinger headed home an Amiri curler in the 52nd. There would be no more tallies, even though the German team generated no fewer than seven quality goal-scoring chances down the stretch.

Edmond Tapsoba officially returned from his COVID-enforced absence, playing the entire second half. Two players from the U19 squad also made substitute appearances. Emerhan Gedikli and Cem Türkmen came on in the 68th. The latter made his first team debut.  

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