IT is perhaps fitting that a European campaign that has been as remarkable and unpredictable should come to an end in such strange circumstances for Rangers. This wasn’t the finale that Steven Gerrard wanted, but it was one that his side could have no complaints about.

The world has changed beyond recognition since the first leg of this fixture was played five months ago in front of a capacity Ibrox crowd. The fact that Bayer Leverkusen are superior to Gerrard’s side has not altered during that same period, however, and their progression to a tie with Inter Milan on Monday evening cannot be questioned or queried.

The vast stands of the BayArena were covered in flags and banners rather than brimmed with bouncing supporters as Moussa Diaby netted the only goal of a routine victory for Leverkusen. This was European football, just not as we once knew it.

The Europa League has given Gerrard some of his most memorable and exhilarating occasions in the dugout but this was flat, insipid, as Rangers didn’t exactly go down with a fight. The 3-1 defeat suffered all the way back in March proved insurmountable and this narrow loss ended one European adventure just weeks before another will kick-off in the qualifying rounds.

Rangers would be eliminated with something of a whimper but the 2019/20 campaign will live long in the memory. From the roar that greeted Alfredo Morelos’ winner against Legia to the stunning comeback against Braga, the Ibrox crowd were given the ultimate rollercoaster ride as Gerrard and his players excelled and excited on a continental campaign that ended almost 400 days after it began under the Rock of Gibraltar.

Rangers made the trip to Germany more in hope than expectation, needing not just their finest performance under Gerrard in Europe but the most unexpected result, too.

When the early goal that Rangers so badly needed failed to materialise, a sense of resignation would have set in. Those that have found it within themselves to raise their game to such lofty levels in previous rounds couldn’t repeat the feat here as Rangers, once again, were second best to Bayer.

Gerrard had no option but to start with Morelos but the Colombian was barely even on the fringes of the action. Rangers had no focal point up front, no spark from in behind.

As the midfield three battled to try and gain a foothold in the game, any openings for Ryan Kent and Brandon Barker proved fleeting. There was no impetus to Rangers’ play and they never looked like surpassing the results earned on the road at Feyenoord, Porto and Braga.

By the time Gerrard had the chance to rally his troops at the break, it would have been a hard sell to convince them that they still stood a chance.

The tie was theoretically within reach, but only just. The equation remained the same in that they required three goals to stand a chance of completing the great escape but the game should have been beyond them by half-time.

The best chances had fallen to Kai Havertz but the Bundesliga’s most wanted man couldn’t capitalise. The first was a moment of invention as a snap shot clipped the crossbar, while Allan McGregor could only watch on as the German slid a low shot narrowly wide as he burst in behind Filip Helander.

The Swede would make a terrific block to deny Florian Wirtz, while Kevin Volland pulled an effort into the near post after cutting in from the right flank. They were moments of anxiousness for Rangers and there was little to lift the feeling that Leverkusen had everything under control.

When Diaby rifled a shot beyond McGregor just six minutes after the restart, that belief was reaffirmed. James Tavernier was culpable as the Frenchman was allowed to run across him from right to left and collect a defence-splitting pass from Charles Aranguiz, but take nothing away from a fine finish from such a promising talent.

A header from Connor Goldson was cleared off the line by Edmond Tapsoba but time was quickly running out for Rangers. A promising spell never looked like materialising into a remarkable fightback.

The Europa League marathon was over for Rangers. They need not wait long to set off on their next continental adventure in search of more thrills and spills.