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Chelsea’s £90m target Kai Havertz was influential against Rangers… but his finishing let him down

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chelseas 90m target kai havertz was influential against rangers but his finishing let him down

For his first competitive appearance in four weeks, star attacker Kai Havertz certainly made an impression for Bayer Leverkusen against Rangers. Whether you take a positive or negative slant on his display though, probably depends on your allegiance. 

On an evening where the Germans strode comfortably into the Europa League quarter-finals, via Moussa Diaby’s solitary second-half strike, the Chelsea target was heavily involved in every notable opportunity in the first-half, operating in a broadly free role on the right.

All that was missing, significantly, was the finishing touch. An ambitious whistling volley caught the woodwork early on, yet two one-on-one situations either side of half-time failed to result in a goal: one skewed wide, one straight at Gers keeper Allan McGregor. Both on his favoured left-foot – and both should have been converted. 

Kai Havertz was influential for Bayer Leverkusen against Rangers in the Europa League last-16

Kai Havertz was influential for Bayer Leverkusen against Rangers in the Europa League last-16

Yet the £90m Chelsea target was unable to convert a couple of very presentable chances

Yet the £90m Chelsea target was unable to convert a couple of very presentable chances

Yet in fairness, that is not in keeping with Havertz’s form over the course of the 2019-20 season. He’s scored 17 goals operating in a attacking midfield role this season, including five goals in four matches post-lockdown. 

But tonight, in a match with a distinct pre-season feel to it – Leverkusen have just finished their season whilst Rangers have just started their new campaign – the 21-year-old picked his moments to come alive. 

Positioned wide-right in an attacking trio behind central striker Kevin Volland, his first-half consisted mostly of neat first-time lay-offs for his team-mates and naturally cutting in on his left-foot with his back to goal. 

The final third was where Havertz selectively expanded his energy, with a burst of acceleration often taking Rangers’ back-line by surprise. Nimble and agile, his close control of the ball in tight spaces meant he very rarely lost possession throughout the course of the evening. 

Yet after a largely anonymous opening 15 minutes, the playmaker come alive. With the ball perfectly set up for him just inside the box to the right, he struck a fizzing left-footed volley goal-bound. Yet with McGregor beaten, the ball grazed the crossbar. 

Havertz came alive midway through the first-half, but could not give his side the lead

Havertz came alive midway through the first-half, but could not give his side the lead

But a far easier chance presented itself six minutes later. After a perfectly timed run beat the offside trap, Havertz was one-on-one with McGregor. Bearing down on goal, a net ripple was imminent. But no? To the bemusement of everyone in the BayArena, not least himself, he pulled his shot wide of the far-post. 

A massive opportunity squandered – the sort of chance which doesn’t come around all too often in the high-stakes tension and drama of the Premier League.  

Not undeterred though, he almost made amends with an exquisite ball over the top to Diaby just before half-time, yet the midfielder couldn’t control his skywards volley.

Three big moments in the first-half – three instances of play heavily involving the 21-year-old star. 

After the break, with the game increasingly stretched as Rangers pushed gallantly for a goal to claw back the tie, space opened up. 

Havertz was heavily involved in the first-half but played no part in the only goal of the game

Havertz was heavily involved in the first-half but played no part in the only goal of the game

Diaby gave Leverkusen the lead and three minutes later, Havertz was played through on goal again. This time he hit the target, but struck straight at McGregor’s legs, who prodded the ball away rather comfortably. 

A pattern was emerging: an ability to find a chance but an inability to finish it. 

Then, as substitutions broke up the rhythm of the game and Rangers pressed intensely as they searched for three goals in half-an-hour, Havertz went missing somewhat – bar a late effort into the side-netting with no angle to play with.

To cut him some slack, perhaps understandably, fatigue caught up with a young talisman who has already played 43 matches this season.

The 21-year-old lacked influence as the second-half wore on, perhaps impacted by fatigue

The 21-year-old lacked influence as the second-half wore on, perhaps impacted by fatigue

But was does this mean for Chelsea fans? Perhaps the most noteworthy point is the result itself. With Bayer insistent that Havertz won’t be departing until their European journey is over this season, their victory in the tie means no potential deal will be completed over the next few days. 

Leverkusen move on to the last-eight, and a mouthwatering clash against Inter Milan on neutral territory in Dusseldorf on Monday night. That will tell us more about Havertz. Yet this did tell us something: for all the talk, whether it be rustiness or not, his first European game back was certainly a story of two steps forward, one step back. 

The talent is evidently there, but should a mega-money deal go through this summer, Frank Lampard will certainly have some work to do. 

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From Tranmere to Madrid! Former Rovers youngster Marvin Park makes his Real debut

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from tranmere to madrid former rovers youngster marvin park makes his real debut

It may have been an underwhelming season opener for Real Madrid, but Los Blancos‘ goalless draw with Real Sociedad won’t be forgotten in a long time for Marvin Park, as the youngster made his Madrid debut.

The 20-year-old academy product came off the bench to replace Rodrygo with 20 minutes remaining as Zinedine Zidane‘s side looked to break the deadlock at the Reale Seguros Stadium.

Park’s senior appearance caps a remarkable journey in which the Spanish youngster came through the ranks of a number of clubs before finding a home at Real Madrid, including Tranmere Rovers.

Former Tranmere Rovers academy player Marvin Park (R) has made his debut for Real Madrid

Former Tranmere Rovers academy player Marvin Park (R) has made his debut for Real Madrid

The 20-year-old Spaniard was introduced by Zinedine Zidane with 20 minutes remaining

The 20-year-old Spaniard was introduced by Zinedine Zidane with 20 minutes remaining

The midfielder joined Rovers’ youth academy as a nine-year-old in 2009, and spent three years in the North West before returning to Spain and playing for Ciutat de Palma. 

He then went onto develop at La Salle and Jonquet Penya Arrabal before Madrid snapped up the youngster in 2016, and Park has flourished at Los Blancos ever since. 

Park, who has represented Spain at U19 level, was born in Spain to a Nigerian father and South Korean mother, and barring his stint in England with Tranmere, has spent his life in Spain. 

The 20-year-old was unable to make the difference for Zidane’s side, though, with Madrid’s title defence getting off to a steady start with a point at Sociedad. 

Los Blancos had a mixed 2019-20 campaign, winning LaLiga ahead of arch rivals Barcelona, but they crashed out of the Champions League to Manchester City in the Round of 16. 

Park was unable to break the deadlock as Madrid drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad on Sunday

Park was unable to break the deadlock as Madrid drew 0-0 with Real Sociedad on Sunday

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Angry words between Kieran Gibbs and Seamus Coleman caught on camera

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angry words between kieran gibbs and seamus coleman caught on camera

There weren’t many cool heads as Kieran Gibbs received a red card in Everton‘s thrashing of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday afternoon. 

Gibbs was sent off after catching James Rodriguez with a raised arm, and then had an angry exchange of words with Seamus Coleman as he was walking off the pitch.

‘I’ll f****** do it again,’ said Gibbs, walking past a group of Everton players, and the Toffees captain took exception.  

Kieran Gibbs received a red card for violent conduct in West Brom's defeat to Everton

Kieran Gibbs received a red card for violent conduct in West Brom’s defeat to Everton

‘No you won’t do it again,’ Coleman retorted. ‘Who are you talking to, you’ll do it again? Hard man… f****** hard man.’

It all started when there was controversy as Rodriguez gave Gibbs a shove by the touchline with the Albion defender reacting by catching him in the cheek with a raised arm.

Rodriguez milked it with a roll and clutch of the face and Gibbs was dismissed.

As he left the pitch, Gibbs had a heated exchange with Everton captain Seamus Coleman

As he left the pitch, Gibbs had a heated exchange with Everton captain Seamus Coleman

Gibbs had received a shove from James Rodriguez, and responded by raising his arm

Gibbs had received a shove from James Rodriguez, and responded by raising his arm

Bilic argued with Dean when they walked off and was given a red card himself, but later admitted his player ‘had given the referee no choice’ and said Gibbs would have been better falling to the ground himself. 

Everton ended up winning the game 5-2, leaving the Baggies rooted to the bottom of the table having conceded eight goals in their first two games back in the Premier League. 

Meanwhile Everton spent the night at the top of the table, but have now been leapfrogged by Leicester City after their own big win on Sunday. 

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Dean Smith thinks Aston Villa’s last-gasp survival last season was divine intervention

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dean smith thinks aston villas last gasp survival last season was divine intervention

Dean Smith believes divine intervention may have kept Aston Villa in the Premier League as he reflected on the lucky escape they had against Monday night’s opponents Sheffield United.

When the sides met at Villa Park in June, the Blades were denied a goal because Hawk-Eye failed to spot that Oliver Norwood’s free-kick had been carried over the goal-line by Orjan Nyland. 

As a result, referee Michael Oliver received no alert to his watch or earpiece. The game ended 0-0 and Villa eventually stayed up by a point.

Dean Smith led Aston Villa to narrow Premier League survival last season on the final day

Dean Smith led Aston Villa to narrow Premier League survival last season on the final day

Dean Smith led Aston Villa to narrow Premier League survival last season on the final day

Villa face Sheffield United on Monday, bringing back memories of their June clash last term

Villa face Sheffield United on Monday, bringing back memories of their June clash last term

Villa face Sheffield United on Monday, bringing back memories of their June clash last term 

VAR failed to spot that Orjan Nyland had carried the ball over the line, costing the Blades a win

VAR failed to spot that Orjan Nyland had carried the ball over the line, costing the Blades a win

VAR failed to spot that Orjan Nyland had carried the ball over the line, costing the Blades a win

Smith’s father Ron, a lifelong fan who worked as a steward at Villa Park, died in May aged 79 after contracting Covid-19, and the Villa boss revealed: ‘I am not really one for religion or anything like that but my dad had just passed away. 

‘His old steward’s jacket was in the Holte End and he had a thing about watches. So maybe he just wanted to play a bit of a trick that day.

‘It is one of those one in a million things. It had never failed before. People can say what they want about the goal but we stayed up on merit and there were many goals chalked off which shouldn’t have been. 

‘VAR was certainly contentious for Villa last season.’

Smith's father had just passed from COVID-19 and the Villa boss believes he helped them out

Smith's father had just passed from COVID-19 and the Villa boss believes he helped them out

Smith’s father had just passed from COVID-19 and the Villa boss believes he helped them out 

Since avoiding relegation, Villa have brought in four players and tied captain Jack Grealish to a new five-year contract.

One of the arrivals, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, is expected to make his debut on Monday night after joining the club from Arsenal for an initial £16million.  

‘He’s a player who finished the season really well with Arsenal,’ Smith said. 

‘He wanted a fresh challenge and we’ve got a situation where Tom Heaton isn’t fit for the start of the season.’

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