Rangers are through to the group stage of the Europa League after an impressive 2-1 win over Galatasaray thanks to goals from Scott Arfield and James Tavernier, with the Gers making the groups for the third consecutive season under Steven Gerrard after a late scare at Ibrox.
The Gers will take their place in tomorrow’s draw, alongside Old Firm rivals Celtic, and have taken a massive step towards securing an automatic Champions League group stage space from 2022/23 for the Scottish champions.
Gerrard made two changes from the weekend win over Motherwell with Borna Barisic and Ianis Hagi returning to the starting XI at the expense of Calvin Bassey and Jordan Jones while Ryan Jack and Cedric Itten both won places on the bench after injury.
There was a start for Galatasaray star Falcao after reports had claimed he would be benched by manager Fatih Terim while Sofien Feghouli and Ryan Babel were give wide roles for the Turkish side.
Rangers started really well and took the game to the visitors, creating early chances for Morelos, with the Light Blues controlling the early tempo and denying Galatasaray any real opportunity to get forward.
Such was the impressiveness of the Gers’ start, it took ten minutes for Falcao to get a touch of the ball – and it came on the edge of his own six-yard box as Rangers piled on the pressure.
The closest early opportunity came as a result of one of several corners won by Gerrard’s side as Connor Goldson’s powerful header was cleared by Luyindama deflecting it over his own crossbar.
With Rangers looking to make their early pressure count before Gala started to settle into a rhythm, the assistant referee’s flag left Morelos frustrated; pulling the striker back twice as he looked to break through the visitors’ line.
Fatih Terim’s side found their feet and started to show just how dangerous they could be, testing the Gers’ defence although ultimately failing to make Allan McGregor work.
There was another golden chance for Rangers to break the deadlock 28 minutes in when Morelos picked up on a loose pass and pushed forward, picking out Hagi with a quick pass but the move fell apart and Galatasaray got a lucky escape.
The dominance of the first 20 minutes had been replaced with a much more evenly-balanced game, both sides taking turns at probing the other’s defence and trying to find a gap to exploit and open the scoring.
When Galatasaray did push forward, the Rangers defence worked really well to snuff out the threat and minimise their opportunities at goal.
Despite heading towards the break with the score still level, Gerrard will have been fairly happy with how his side were going about their business, although the final ball did let them down a little too often as the teams went in at half time.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) October 1, 2020
Rangers almost started the second half with a bang after some brilliant play by Kent, skipping past Luyindama, before finding Morelos in the box but El Bufalo’s header was well saved by Ozturk in the Galatasaray goal.
Seven minutes after the restart, the goal finally came as Scott Arfield’s dangerous runs from midfield got their reward and fire the Light Blues into the lead.
It was a brilliant bit of quick attacking play from the Gers as Tavernier played the ball to Morelos, who’s dummy fell nicely for Hagi and the Romanian rolled a delightful ball through for Arfield to stroke the ball home.
Seven minutes later it was seven goals in seven games for the skipper as Tavernier doubled the lead and continued his incredible run of form for the Light Blues and give them a massive boost towards the group stage.
The captain rose brilliantly to head home Barisic’s cross as the full-backs combined to tremendous effect and show just why they are such important members of Gerrard’s side.
Gala had a big penalty shout when Belhanda went down under a challenge from Arfield, but replays showed it was a dive, with the referee also spotting it and issuing a booking.
🔥 A perfect team goal finished off by @James_Tavernier.
Just Lovely. pic.twitter.com/7NYgG5Z45b
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) October 1, 2020
The second goal completely deflated Gala and the Turkish side looked very much like a team who had given up and were in damage-limitation mode, sticking rigidly to their game-plan as the minutes ticked away.
Gerrard’s side continued to push forward looking for a third goal and put a real shine on an impressive second-half performance, with Hagi at the middle of everything for the Light Blues.
The Rangers boss turned to his bench with just over 12 minutes left as Ryan Jack was introduced in place of Hagi to see out the win, with Jack’s return to action surely to have pleased fans watching at home.
With three minutes left of normal time there was a late scare for the Gers as Galatasaray pulled a goal back through Marcao’s header which Jack appeared to have covered on the line but Allan McGregor diverted the ball beyond him and set up a nervy finale.
Rangers showed their bottle though and made it through to the group stages and an extended European adventure.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Arfield, Kent, Hagi, Morelos
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Defoe, Itten, Jones, Balogun, Jack
Galatasaray: Fatih Ozturk, Elabdellaoui, Luyindama, Marcao, Linnes, Taylan Antalyali, Feghouli, Emre, Belhanda, Babel, Falcao
Subs: Okan Kocuk, Etebo, Donk, Omer Bayram, Emre Tasdemir, Sekidika, Diagne