It’s advantage Rangers in the Europa League as the Ibrox side earned a spirited 1-1 draw with Czech outfit Slavia Prague despite a rocky start in eastern Europe.
The Gers were rocked by an earlier Nicolae Stanciu screamer which curled over the top of an admittedly stranded and perhaps out of position Allan McGregor.
It topped off what was a rocky start for Rangers, Slavia’s pressing and aggressive game catching Steven Gerrard’s side off guard with slack passing and hurried touches a feature of our early play.
But despite Slavia’s dominance, there was one man on the field assuming an unfamiliar leadership role and he won challenge and duel after challenge and due with the Gers under pressure.
Filip Helander – a man who coinicidentally is yet to be beaten in the Scottish Premiership – stood up and was counted with Rangers under the cosh and helped hold the line as he and his teammates fought for their way back into the match.
And poignantly, it would be the big Swede who’d pop up with the equaliser and away goal for Rangers as he pounced on an impressive Ianis Hagi pass into the six-yard box in the second phase of a free-kick.
This match changed the tone of the contest for Rangers who had the better of the contest in the second half and impressed with their self-belief at this stage of European competition.
Helander would then return to his unassuming role in the team, his defensive intuitiveness a real asset at this level whilst the team plays in front of him, largely through defensive partner Connor Goldson.
Helander would also make one last telling contribution as he unorthodoxly won the ball during a late Slavia attack with the Czech side demanding a penalty in vain.
The big defender’s goal has Rangers in a fine position ahead of next week’s return with the Gers having a week to prepare for the match.
The ex-Bologna man earned the acclaim of supporters for both the goal and his performance in the aftermath of the match at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague:
Time to bring this back 👇
Gimme gimme gimme Helander at midnight! pic.twitter.com/EA0UH2i4Im
— Rangers On Tour (@RangersOnTour_) March 11, 2021
Helander was phenomenal inite
— F R 6 (@foxyrangers6) March 11, 2021
Big Helander reads the game of football like an open book 📖
— Scott Turner (@ScottTurner_92) March 11, 2021
Still stand by that we are better balanced team with helander great result 🔴⚪🔵
— Dave Macv (@dave_macvicar) March 11, 2021
Despite the sluggish start, so much to be positive about tonight. Even without his goal, Helander was fantastic and Patterson really grew into the game after a nervy first half. Oh, and not a bad save at the end…
— Dougla55 Dickie (@DouglasDickie1) March 11, 2021
McGregor rightly take all the plaudits but I thought big Helander and Patterson were excellent
On Rangers on 🇬🇧
— Ian Mac (@iMac_1991) March 11, 2021
Alan McGregor could save the Royal family relations!. Up there with Bremen away in the last campaign that ended in a European final! Incredible.
— C F (@fyallc) March 11, 2021
Big Phil Helander was tremendous tonight. 💪
— the_toad (@tarmstrong98) March 11, 2021
Helander motm for me
— David (@matalihan123) March 11, 2021
Helander had his best game in a Rangers jersey tonight.
— Iain (@IainWATP) March 11, 2021
Helander again showing why he’s the best ever swede to play in Scotland
— CHRIS (@chrisynewlands1) March 11, 2021
Helander best Swedish player ever to play in Scotland???
— Gary (@potsy1980) March 11, 2021
That save man 😍👏👏
Still thought big Helander was MOTM tonight 👌 https://t.co/G11ajqiOt6
— Jamie Ralston (@Ralston1990) March 11, 2021
Rangers fans had plenty to cheer in Prague and Helander’s performance and goal weren’t the only things grabbing the headlines.
Fans lost it as legendary Ibrox keeper Allan McGregor pulled off one of the greatest saves of his career at the death to keep the Gers’ noses in front in the tie.