Rangers' Europa League dreams still on as Gers secure quarter-final spot
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Rangers' Europa League dreams still on as Gers secure quarter-final spot

Rangers are through to tomorrow’s Europa League quarter-final draw after a 4-2 aggregate win over Red Star following the 2-1 win for the Serbians in tonight’s second leg.

The Light Blues survived a number of scares and had Allan McGregor to thank after the veteran made several key stops to deny Red Star the goals they needed to mount a massive comeback.

The hosts made one change from the first-leg defeat, with Srnić dropping to the bench, replaced by Pavkov while Rangers reverted back to the XI that started last week at Ibrox after making a number of changes for the Scottish Cup win over Dundee at the weekend.

With the electric atmosphere inside the Marakana, it was the Gers who controlled the early stages, winning a corner with less than 20 seconds played.

Rangers looked comfortable on the ball, moving with intent and trying to get forward in the opening minutes and silence the vocal home support.

However, with just ten minutes on the clock, Rangers’ task suddenly became much harder as they fell behind to Mirko Ivanic’s strike.

Some woeful defending at a corner left the Red Star man with all the space and time in the world to lash the ball home from eight yards out.

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The Serbians almost had a second just a few minutes later, McGregor making a fantastic stop to deny Ivanic adding to his tally.

Rangers’ bright start had disappeared and the Light Blues quickly started to look utterly lost when Red Star pushed forward – Glen Kamara, in particular, looking totally unsuited to his role in the Gers’ midfield.

There were still some positives for van Bronkchorst’s side though, looking threatening when they did get forward although final balls would let the Gers down more than once.

As the Gers looked to draw level on the night, Morelos has the Gers’ best chance of the opening quarter, watching as his effort went inches wide of Borjan’s far post.

After the end-to-end start to the game, the match became more stop-start as it headed towards half-time, a number of niggly fouls halting play as both sides were wasteful in possession.

While Rangers were still two goals in front, it was evident that there had to be something changed at the break to offer the Light Blues a bit more going forward and get control of the game.

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As nervy as the opening 45 had been for the watching Rangers fans, there wasn’t a huge amount created by Red Star after taking the lead. – although McGregor would need to come to the rescue one last time before the break.

The 40-year-old bailed Ryan Jack out after he was mugged on the edge of the Rangers box, the Scotland international surprisingly losing out on a 50/50 you’d have bet your house on him winning.

The hosts had been the better side over the course of the first half but if Rangers could take one of their chances, there was a real feeling the energy would be sucked right out of the Red Star players and fans alike.

Both sides knew heading off that the next goal would be crucial; Rangers score and it is game over, Red Star score and it becomes very much game on.

The second half started with no changes – surprisingly – and it didn’t take long for Rangers to be struggling to deal with another corner.

This time, Kanga’s curling effort took a reaction save from McGregor to keep it from sneaking in at the back post, giving the Gers what should have been an early wake up call after the restart.

It didn’t seem to have the desired effect though, Bassey making a mess of chasing down a through pass and only getting away with it when Pavkov’s pass across the area found no one.

After surviving that, the goal Rangers fans had been hoping for arrived ten minutes into the second period thanks to Ryan Kent.

The wideman picked the ball up at halfway after a deft flick by Kamara and drove 30 yards towards goal before his effort took a big deflection over the top of Borjan and nestled in the back of the net.

The goal looked to have completely rejuvenated Rangers, the Light Blues snapping into challenges, and mopping up any threat the hosts posed in their desperate bid to get back into the game as they invited Red Star to try and break them down.

Allan McGregor was yet again the hero for Rangers – albeit having almost been the villain – watching as his fumbled attempt at a save fell to Ben Nabouhane before somehow getting on top of the second effort and smothering it on the line.

With the game entering the final quarter, the first change for Rangers came, Scott Arfield and James Sands coming on for Joe Aribo and Ryan Jack to see things out.

There was some concern for Rangers with ten minutes left, Alfredo Morelos needing help off the park with an apparent injury problem, Kemar Roofe coming on to replace him – Borna Barisic also coming on to replace Lundstram.

As the Rangers subs came on, Red Star tried to get play underway quickly only for the referee to pull it back and allow the Gers stars time to get into position in their five-man defence.

Roofe would almost get his name on the scoresheet, linking well with Kent before his effort at goal was pushed away at the near post.

Van Bronckhorst would make one last change to run the clock down, Ryan Kent coming off to be replaced by Scott Wright for the last few minutes.

There would be one last bit of drama, Glen Kamara conceding a penalty, as the Serbians grabbed a late consolation before Rangers’ place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League was confirmed.

Red Star: Borjan; Piccini, Rodic, Dragovic, Erakovic, Sanogo, Ivanic, Kanga, Katai, Omoijuanfo, Pavkov.
Subs: Popovic, Gordic, Gajic, Pankov, Krsicic, Falco, Motika, Zivkovic, Ben Nabouhane, Radulovic, Gobelijic

Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey, Jack, Lundstram, Kamara, Aribo, Kent, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, McCrorie, Barisic, King, Ramsey, Sands, Arfield, Lowry, Amad, Wright, Roofe, Fashion Jr.

Meanwhile, the scale of Rangers’ achievements in European competition is highlighted by the latest results in the Champions League.

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