Rangers have extended their unbeaten start to the season after a 3-3 draw with Benfica in Portugal saw Alfredo Morelos make history with his 22nd European goal for the club.
The Gers made two changes from the weekend win over Kilmarnock, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara replacing Scott Arfield and Cedric Itten in the starting XI as Steven Gerrard freshened up his side.
Both sides went into the game with 100% records in Group D so far and knew the winner would take a massive step towards securing qualification for the knockout phase.
It was a nightmare start for the Gers though when Benfica took an almost instant lead after some shambolic defending by the visitors.
Filip Helander failed to clear the ball, seeing his initial clearance charged down then failing to win the follow up before Benfica’s Rafa Silva cannoned his cut-back off Connor Goldson and into the net.
Benfica couldn’t have hoped for a better opening sixty seconds and it immediately left the Gers needing to take the game to the Eagles.
The early opener didn’t take the wind out of the Gers’ sails though and the Light Blues looked pretty sharp in possession and keen to get forward, winning an early corner and letting Benfica know they weren’t in Lisbon just to make up the numbers.
In conditions reminiscent of the later stages of the win over Liege, Steven Davis’ fantastic vision sent Rangers piling forward when he found Morelos wide on the right.
The Colombian made his way towards goal before squaring the ball to Kent but the former Liverpool man couldn’t get the ball under control and the move broke down.
Rangers were suddenly handed a massive lifeline when Benfica were reduced to 10 men after Nicolas Otamendi was sent off for bringing Kent down after another long pass by Davis.
Although Tavernier couldn’t make the free kick count, the prospect of facing ten men for seventy minutes will surely have been a boost for Rangers.
Five minutes after Otamendi’s dismissal, it was all square with Benfica putting through their own goal after yet another beautiful pass from Davis to open up the host’s defence and find Tavernier.
The skipper fired the ball across goal and Cupido Goncalves made an even bigger mess of clearing his lines than Helander did earlier and sliced the ball into the roof of the net.
The game was then completely turned on its head sixty seconds later when Glen Kamara fired the Gers into the lead.
Morelos done brilliantly to find the Finn with a cross-field path with Kamara driving inside and curling the ball into the bottom corner and the build-up play before it even got to Morelos involved 10 or 11 passes as Rangers played their way out of trouble.
A frantic opening 25 minutes finally started to settle into a bit more of a regular pattern and the Ibrox midfielders used the ball really to get the Benfica defence turned and heading towards their own goal.
The hosts still posed a threat though, despite Rangers taking a bit more control, and the Portuguese giants looked particularly dangerous on the break.
Joe Aribo had the best chance to make it 3-1 before the break, an excellent ball in from Barisic on the left hand side left Aribo with a free header, but he put it wide when it looked easier to score.
The turnaround from the opening minutes was very impressive from the Light Blues, going from looking shaky and a bit over-awed to playing crisp, quick passes and making Benfica really work hard to stay in the game.
With the rain continuing to teem down, the slippery surface was starting to have a bit of an effect with the ball skidding up quickly and players losing their footing a little bit more often.
By the time Jesús Gil Manzano did bring the opening 45 to a close, Rangers were very much the team in control of the game – although there will possibly have been a slight frustration the Gers weren’t further ahead.
Rangers were immediately on the front foot after the restart as they looked to finish the game off and fire themselves two goals in front.
While there wasn’t the same urgency that was on show earlier, Gerrard’s side were just as careful and five minutes after the break, the third goal game – and it was one that will live in the history books for a long time.
Tavernier broke the Benfica line and rolled the ball across goal for Morelos to tap it home and go one ahead of Ally McCoist as the club’s all-time record goalscorer in Europe with 22.
Few will have expected this outcome before the game with Benfica’s unbeaten record at home in the Europa League looked set to end.
With the game entering the final 30 minutes, Rangers were looking comfortable on the ball as they tried to see out the game and complete a stunning comeback.
That didn’t stop them getting forward when they could though and Kent came within inches of making it 4-1 but his effort came crashing off the post and out after yet more nice attacking football.
Despite the comical circumstances of the opener, this was looking like being up there with any of the outstanding performances’ under Gerrard in Europe so far.
Scott Arfield was given a chance to make an impact on the game and add some extra energy in midfield, almost immediately setting up Tavernier.
Rangers gifted Benfica a second goal after another mistake by Helander turned over possession in the box t0 set up a nervous finale when the Gers relly should have been out of sight.
With the minutes ticking away, Gerrard’s side suffered late heartbreak when Darwin Nunez equalised with two minutes to go and leave the Gers wondering what should have been.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Jack, Davis, Kamara, Aribo (Arfield 69′), Kent, Morelos
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Balogun, Hagi, Itten, Patterson, Roofe, Barker, Stewart, Barjonas, Dickson
Referee: Jesús Gil Manzano (ESP)