Rangers' Europa League rivals Antwerp in major boost with dramatic league table climb

Rangers' Europa League rivals Antwerp in major boost with dramatic league table climb

Rangers’ Europa League rivals Royal Antwerp have received a major boost after a win over Gent saw them climb six places in the Belgian First Division A league table.

It’s been a strange season to date for Antwerp, who have struggled for consistency.

Rangers will meet Royal Antwerp in the Europa League Round of 32. (Photo by Harold Cunningham – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

They impressed with their performances en route to a runner-up spot in Europa League Group J which set up a Round of 32 tie with the Gers, but ahead of their trip to Gent on Sunday afternoon, they had lost seven and drawn four of their 20 First Division A matches.

Their most recent defeat came last weekend at Mechelen in new manager Franky Vercauteren’s first game in charge.

However, they pulled off something of a smash and grab win this time around, courtesy of a 75th-minute Martin Hongla strike.

The Cameroonian midfielder’s fourth goal of the season was the away side’s only effort on target across the 90 minutes but it was enough to secure all three points, despite Gent dominating possession and testing Antwerp keeper Alireza Beiranvand four times from their ten attempts.

Franky Vercauteren secured his first win as Royal Antwerp manager at Gent. (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen Fotografie/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The win has done wonders for Vercauteren’s side’s league standing, as they climbed a whopping six places from ninth to third.

Their patchy form has ensured that they are still eleven points behind leaders Club Brugge, but they now only trail second-placed Genk by four points.

It’s still just over a month before the two sides meet in Belgium for the first leg of their Round of 32 tie, but the Gers will be hoping that their opponents don’t build up too much momentum prior to that clash.

Rangers dropped points for just the third time this season with a 1-1 draw at Motherwell on Sunday. Here are our Player Ratings from the game.