Steven Gerrard will not blame coronavirus distraction for defeat

Steven Gerrard refused to use the coronavirus panic as an excuse after Rangers were left staring at a Europa League exit.

The Ibrox boss admitted he had spent the day leading up to his side’s last-16 clash with Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen keeping track of the latest updates.

But he insists worries over the pandemic were not to blame after seeing Gers crash 3-1 at Ibrox.

He said: “I have been listening to a lot of noise today.

“Did I worry the game might not go ahead? Only this morning, speaking to Ross Wilson (Rangers’ sporting director) on my way in. We were waiting for the nod that everything was going to go ahead as normal.

“But we found out pretty early, so it didn’t affect preparation or didn’t affect the mindset. We can’t be looking for that as an excuse.”

Kai Havertz’s VAR-sanctioned penalty just before half-time and a second-half strike from Chile international Charles Aranguiz put Peter Bosz’s impressive outfit in charge.

George Edmundson’s header raised hopes Rangers could complete another remarkable rescue mission after fighting back from two down to stun Braga in the previous round, but they were snuffed out by Leon Bailey’s late effort.

It leaves the Ibrox men with a huge mountain to climb in next week’s closed-door clash at BayArena.

However, it remains to be seen if the Rhineland return will even go ahead.
Leverkusen chiefs are due to hold talks with local authority officials in the coming days, while UEFA bosses will hold a summit involving all 55 member nations to decide whether to continue with European competition.

Bosz repeated his call for the tournament to be shelved until the crisis passes, but Gerrard admits he is in no place to be making demands after seeing his side slump at home in Europe for the first time under his watch.

He said: “It seems as if a lot of people are making decisions as of now to cancel or alter the situation.

“At the moment, we’re told the game is going ahead behind closed doors, so we’ll do what we’re told and listen to UEFA and do what we need to do.

“That’s not great. No player or manager wants a game, or even to watch a sporting event, behind closed doors.

“I watched part of Man United today and it just didn’t feel right. Thankfully, the weekend Old Firm game is going ahead I’m told with the crowd there.

“I can understand Peter’s opinion because I don’t think anyone wants to see the remainder of the competition behind closed doors – or see teams deciding to pull out.

“But I’m not going to sit here after a 3-1 defeat while it’s advantage to Leverkusen and say the tournament should be cancelled. That’s not the right thing to say.

“I think all I want to say is the important thing is the people, us, protection from these situations. This virus is growing, it’s continuing to spread, so the first thing has to be people’s health. But I’m hoping that football continues. But first things first, everyone’s health is more important.

“The scoreline is a tough one for us to take, losing 3-1 at home is disappointing.

“You have to pay respect to opposition, a good team with good style and some real high-class individuals.

“We were too respectful in the first 45. We had a good shape but were passive, not aggressive enough.

“I got what I wanted in the second half and we forced them into areas and got some success.

“But the second goal we then conceded is a top, top finish. The third one, I’m disappointed, we didn’t defend that very well. It does (feel like a killer).

Bozs said: “I hope we will go ahead for the second leg but I really have no idea.

“It’s crazy these times to see games being cancelled, games being played without fans – which I don’t understand.

“The fans must be there. Professional football is for the fans. If we play without them, then don’t play.”

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