Rangers progressed to the third round of Europa League Qualifying after a 1-1 draw with Osijek at Ibrox. The team deserved to win the match on the night, with a number of good chances created. The late Osijek goal turned out to be meaningless despite adding nerves to the injury time at the end of the match.
Rangers made one change from the first leg, with Candeias replacing Murphy. For Osijek, Hajradanovic came in from the start, and Henty played up front next to Maric.
Rangers looked to make a quick start, and missed a great chance on only the second minute. Coulibaly had saw a cross cleared over the bar. The corner from Ryan Kent was a great ball in, which Coulibaly met on the volley from 5 yards out. Somehow, he lashed it over the bar.
Osijek were looking to create chances, and causing some issues with their pace up front. A loose free kick in the defensive half put Rangers in a bit of trouble. The shot from Hajradanovic was blocked, but it was a sign of the danger Osijek could pose.
Osijek looked as though they were settling, but some excellent play from Ryan Jack led to two great chances. The first came from him reading the game and intercepting the ball deep in defence. He took a few touches, and played an excellent through ball for Morelos on the run. The striker took a great touch, but his shot wasn’t quite strong enough and was palmed out. From the clearance, Rangers pressed well, and Jack won the ball back. He passed it to Morelos, who laid it off to Candeias. The winger was able to cut inside onto his left foot and shoot, and Malenica saved to his left.
Those chances got the crowd going, and Rangers tried to respond. There were moments of good link up, or excellent pressing. The ball just wouldn’t fall for a good chance, sadly. Osijek almost took advantage of that after Ejaria was caught in possession. Mudrazija got through on goal, and saw his shot well saved by McGregor.
Rangers went up the park a minute later, with Jack hitting a shot straight at the keeper. Two minutes later, Morelos had a shot easily saved from just outside the area. It was halfway through the opening period, and the game was in the balance.
On 29 minutes, Osijek almost forced a great chance. A shot was blocked, and fell to Maric inside the box. He tried to turn, and Coulibaly won the ball just inside the box. Penalty claims were waved away by the referee. On 37 minutes, Allan McGregor again showed his class. A shot from Henty was well saved on the stretch, and he got back up to block the drive from Bockaj on the rebound.
Rangers finished the half on the front foot, without really creating a clear chance. Morelos couldn’t quite connect with an excellent cross by Kent, and other crosses were cleared. The team were applauded off at half time after a good performance.
The first half had saw both teams create chances. Both teams would have felt they played well. It was Rangers who stepped up their level at the start of the half. They pressed well, won second balls, and played in the Osijek half. On 51 minutes, A good break saw Coulibaly play a low cross to the back post. Kent met it, looking to put it back across goal, but it was deflected for a corner.
That corner was easily cleared, but Ejaria won a free kick from the throw and that led to the opening goal. A deep cross by Tavernier was only glanced by Malenica beyond the back post. A smart header back across by Morelos was met by Katic, and he nodded home to give Rangers a vital and deserved lead.
From there, Rangers improved further. Just before the hour, smart play by Morelos sent Candeias away on the right. His cross-field ball looked set to be volleyed by Kent, but the winger swiped at fresh air and failed to connect. Eight minutes later, Ejaria played a ball to Morelos on the angle, and his shot was deflected into the hands of the keeper.
Rangers failed to make the most of a great chance on 74 minutes. Morelos won the ball high up the pitch, and it fell to Ejaria. With Arfield and Morelos as options, Ejaria played a pass that was too heavy to Morelos. The striker could only shoot into the side netting from a tight angle. Two minutes later, Ejaria got free after some great link up on the left, but his shot was easily saved.
On the 78th minute, Rangers could have scored with a corner. Kent whipped in a great ball, and a slight deflection off of Morelos took it away from Arfield. Rangers were firmly on the front foot, and on 83 minutes Tavernier had a shot just wide after some good pressure and patient play.
Rangers conceded a free kick on the 86th minute wide on the Osijek right. Henty tried to connect with an overhead kick, and was penalised. Even as the referee whistled, McGregor refused to be beaten as the ball was struck from 8 yards out and he made a great save.
In the last minute of normal time, Rangers couldn’t quite clear a few crosses. McGregor made a good save from a Mudrazija volley. From the cross, the ball evaded everyone and fell to Barisic. His low shot deflected off of a couple of players, and beat McGregor to make it 1-1.
With 4 minutes of injury time to play, Rangers had to see out the game. Windass was very close to scoring after some great hold-up play by Morelos. Arfield also had a shot, but it was straight at the goalkeeper. A late flashpoint saw Katic and Henty booked for squaring up to each other, but no chances were conceded and Rangers went through.
Being at the game, with the nerves and difficulty in staying calm, it felt like a tight match. Having watched it again, Rangers should have scored 2 or 3 in the second half and killed the game. Osijek are a very capable side, but Rangers were stronger. The second half showed the benefit of the fitness work, along with the mentality and ability of the new players. With the promise of more to come from this side, the fans were rightly happy with this result.
McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan, Coulibaly (Arfield, 75), Ejaria (Halliday, 90), Jack, Candeias (Windass, 83), Kent, Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Murphy, Umar, Middleton.
Malenica, Barisic, Tomelin, Mioc, Bockaj (Sorsa, 66), Mudrazija, Skoric, Grgic, Maric (Strkalj, 66), Hajradinovic, Henty.
SUBS NOT USED: Santini, Loncar, Kamenar, Simunec, Pilj.