ALL good things must come to an end. Rangers don’t yet know when the final whistle will blow on their European campaign, but it is now surely just 90 minutes away.

Steven Gerrard’s side won’t discover until next week when they will play the second leg of this last 16 clash. When they do head to Germany, they will face a lost cause after a 3-1 defeat that has Bayer Leverkusen on course for the quarter-finals.

The Coronavirus crisis has added an unfortunate twist to the tale of a remarkable continental story for Rangers this term. It has given Gerrard and his players some incredible highs, but Leverkusen were just too good here.

There were doubts whether this match would be played or whether supporters would be here to see it. It was, in many ways, a reward for Rangers’ efforts in this competition but this loss – just the fourth Gerrard has suffered in Europe – will make the second fixture something of a dead-rubber no matter the situation that eventually surrounds it.

Rangers may have had home advantage and the Ibrox crowd behind them but this was more akin to an away performance from Gerrard’s side. Rangers were out to contain Leverkusen rather than take the game to them and it was only an individual error from George Edmundson that prevented them from reaching half time level.

Leverkusen were happy to knock the ball about, almost painting by numbers in their patient build-up, and Rangers were happy to let them have it in areas. The approach wasn’t popular with the home crowd, but it was the only way that Gerrard could have set up against a side as technically superior.

Groans of frustration were replaced by brief roars of encouragement when tackles were won or moves threatened to materialise. Those moments were too brief overall, though, as an improved second half showing couldn’t yield the desired result.

Rangers were slack and hurried on the ball too often. Touches were heavy, passes were misplaced and they found themselves on the defensive just seconds after a sense of attacking optimism had developed around Ibrox.

Gerrard had elected to start with Alfredo Morelos through the middle but the Colombian was starved of service in the first half. He would do his share of shuttling back and forth to cover the ground when Leverkusen had the ball but Rangers were on the back foot for long spells.

When Leverkusen ventured forward, they found a fairly resolute Rangers defence. With just ten minutes to go before the whistle, the good work was undone, though.

Edmundson misjudged the flight of the ball in the air and got himself in trouble as Charles Aranguiz shaped to cross. Edmundson’s arm wasn’t outstretched but, given some of the decisions made these days, referee Szymon Marciniak was right to award a spot-kick.

The VAR check, and a personal one from the whistler, delayed the inevitable and there was little chance of Kai Havertz missing from 12 yards. A glance on his run-up alerted him to Allan McGregor going to his left and the midfielder stroked the ball into the opposite corner.

It was an unfortunate way for Rangers to fall behind, especially given the fact that Leverkusen had struggled to create anything of note until then. A low effort from Kerem Demirbay had been easily saved by McGregor.

Ibrox had become frustrated with Leverkusen’s seemingly constant possession and Gerrard faced a difficult dilemma at the break. The second half was only seven minutes old when Gerrard decided he had to add some impetus to his side and the introduction of Florian Kamberi lifted Ibrox.

Within seconds, James Tavernier had burst forward and Morelos was denied by a smart save from Lukas Hradecky.

There was finally a bit of verve about Rangers. They still lacked composure at the crucial moments but there was belief amongst Gerrard’s side as half chances were carved out, the best of which came as Jonathan Tah denied Morelos from close range.

Just as hope had started to crystallise, Leverkusen shattered it. Rangers could once again look to an error as Tavernier failed to adequately clear a Mitchell Weisser cross, but there was no doubting the quality of the finish as Aranguiz fired beyond a static McGregor and stunned Ibrox.

Ianis Hagi was next to be introduced for Rangers but the game, and the tie, already looked beyond Gerrard’s side. There was a sense of resignation in the stands, too, but Edmundson’s goal – the defender glancing a header into the far corner - with 15 minutes remaining gave Rangers another jolt. From nowhere, they were back in it.

A free-kick from Borna Barisic that was whipped over the bar would have raised the roof had it curled in, while Ryan Kent fired wide of target. In between, Aranguiz had come close with a free-kick of his own that clipped the woodwork.

The decisive goal – a lovely, curled finish from Leon Bailey – did arrive for Leverkusen. It won’t be the final one in this tie, but it was surely the strike that will be the beginning of the end for Rangers in the Europa League.