Rangers are safely through to the third round of Europa League qualifying after drawing 0-0 with Progrès Niederkorn at the Stade Josy Barthel, meaning the Ibrox men won the tie 2-0 on aggregate. This result over the two legs has given Rangers a much tougher assignment against Danish side FC Midtjylland in their efforts to reach the group stages for the second year in succession.
Steven Gerrard had an eye on Sunday’s league opener with this team selection. However, it was still strong enough that his side should have been able to win the game. There were some changes in the line-up with the aforementioned league opener on the horizon. Borna Barišić came in for Andy Halliday at left-back. Nikola Katić replaced George Edmundson at centre-back with Glen Kamara coming in for Steven Davis and Jermain Defore getting the nod ahead of Alfredo Morelos. Shape-wise, Gerrard continued with his 4-3-2-1 shape, while Progrès went with their 4-1-4-1 deep defensive shape.
It was a night of sloppiness in both boxes for Rangers. While they only gifted one real chance to Progrès, they passed up so many opportunities to get the win on the night and make the overall aggregate score look more convincing.
The sloppiness in their own box came from a long shot from Progrès; Connor Goldson was sleeping and the ball got played into the area, and as you can see from the image above Thill managed to get a shot away despite being in the proximity of three Rangers defenders. Luckily for Rangers, Thill’s shot went over the bar.
On the other hand, Scott Arfield missed an early chance and hit the bottom of the post after capitalising on a defensive mistake from the home side.
The above image is another frustrating situation. The home side’s keeper fires the ball at his teammate but he is pressed by Sheyi Ojo, who wins the ball then finds Alfredo Morelos. Unfortunately, on this occasion, his effort was somehow blocked by heroic defending. However, a striker of Morelos’ ability should be finding the net in a situation such as this.
It was a tough night for Jermain Defoe. He was playing in this match without much service and even when he did get through in behind, there was a severe lack of support from the midfield three and the two attackers behind him. Interestingly, he had one effort on target, lost all six of his duels against the defenders and gave the ball away nine times for the 76 minutes he was on the park.
Everyone knows when Defoe is the frontman the two behind him have to get close to him and for the period he was on the field, that didn’t happen frequently enough. Arfield had an off night, and Ojo carried the ball well but at times his final ball let him down. He completed 16 from 19 dribbles but he just completed one out of a possible three crosses, which isn’t exactly the type or quality of service that Defoe is looking for.
While the match was a frustrating watch and it was a bit of a dampener that Rangers couldn’t win the game on the night, the most important thing is that Rangers are in the next round. To dominate the game with 60% possession and only conceded one real chance on goal, from a European away performance point of view, is decent. However, Progrès are not a good side. And this match will be quickly forgotten. In fact, it was very similar to the match against FK Shkupi last season. Thankfully, the ghost of Pedro Caixinha shouting in the bush can be consigned to the past.
Rangers got the job done with minimal fuss. There are plenty of areas to improve on from this performance, but it’s all about getting through at this stage. However, they will have to perform much, much better if they are to get to the play-off round and get past FC Midtjylland in the next round.
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