Europa League - Qualifying First Round - 1st Leg
Rangers2Shkupi0

Rangers 2-0 FK Shkupi

Steven Gerrard
Gerrard won his first game in charge of Rangers, beating Bury 6-0 in a friendly at Ibrox

Rangers marked Steven Gerrard's first competitive match as manager with victory over Macedonian side FK Shkupi in the first leg of the Europa League first round qualifier.

Jamie Murphy's opener was the least the home side deserved for a bright first-half display.

More subdued after the break, Rangers got the crucial second goal courtesy of a late James Tavernier penalty.

The second leg takes place in Skopje on Tuesday 17 July.

Gerrard had warned in the build-up he would not tolerate a repeat of the complacency which contributed to the humiliating aggregate defeat to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn at this stage of the competition last season.

Perhaps with that warning fresh in their minds, a Rangers starting line-up featuring six summer signings started on the front foot.

Daniel Candeias' cross was parried by Suat Zendeli in the Shkupi goal into the path of Murphy but his effort was tame. Zendeli then had to intercept Tavernier's cutback to prevent Alfredo Morelos tapping home into the empty net.

There was a sharp collective intake of breath amongst the Ibrox faithful when Blagoja Ljamcevski's brilliant curling effort from 20 yards sailed past goalkeeper Allan McGregor, only to hit the crossbar.

Jamie Murphy, Alfredo Morelos
Jamie Murphy (left) celebrates with Alfredo Morelos after giving Rangers the lead

The nerves were settled midway through the first half as Rangers made the breakthrough. Tavernier, appointed club captain by Gerrard, collected the ball on halfway and drove towards the Shkupi box. He found Murphy who worked a yard to fire off a shot that Zendeli, despite getting a foot to the ball, could not keep out.

The keeper partially atoned for his error with a terrific save to keep out Josh Windass' goal-bound header. The home side were now well on top and Windass went close with another header moments later after great build-up play from Morelos.

Jon Flanagan, the former Liverpool full-back who moved to Ibrox in the summer, almost added a second in bizarre circumstances. His attempted cross took a big deflection and looked for a moment to have beaten Zendeli, but the Shkupi captain sprung to his left to claw the ball away.

Morelos should have done better after being found by an excellent Tavernier cross, but the Columbian striker put his effort over the bar. Scott Arfield and Connor Goldson passed up further chances as Rangers failed to add the second goal before the break their first-half dominance merited.

Ibrox
Ibrox was sold-out for Steven Gerrard's first competitive match as Rangers manager

That superiority was not maintained in the early stages of the second period. Rangers' play became somewhat pedestrian and Shkupi threatened to level when Amir Bilali and then Blazhe Illjoski both went close for the Macedonian outfit.

Tavernier was the primary source of Rangers' chances and he put in another peach of a delivery that was begging to be turned home, but again Windass could not direct his header on target.

The fluency of the first half was missing though, and even the introduction of substitutes Ryan Jack and Ovie Ejaria failed to reignite the home side.

The Rangers fans would have needed no reminding that a 1-0 aggregate advantage proved insufficient in Luxembourg last season, and there was a sense of anxiety amongst the home support as their team struggled to find a comforting second goal.

Ejaria was looking for a penalty after going down under a challenge in the box but the referee saw no foul. Nikola Katic then failed to turn home Ross McCrorie's knockdown from a corner, unable to sort his feet out to put the ball away from eight yards.

Glenn Middleton, Gerrard's third and final substitute, brought some much needed attacking purpose to Rangers' play in the closing stages.

It looked like they would have to make do with a one-goal lead to take to Skopje for Tuesday's second leg. However, the referee pointed to the spot when Murphy went down in the box and Tavernier, the game's standout player, struck a confident penalty in the 92nd minute to ensure his side would have a more comfortable cushion heading to Macedonia.

Line-ups

Rangers

  • 1McGregor
  • 6Goldson
  • 2Tavernier
  • 11WindassSubstituted forMiddletonat 79'minutes
  • 15Flanagan
  • 19Katic
  • 17McCrorie
  • 7Murphy
  • 37ArfieldSubstituted forEjariaat 67'minutes
  • 20MorelosBooked at 82mins
  • 21CandeiasBooked at 47minsSubstituted forJackat 56'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3John
  • 8Jack
  • 10Ejaria
  • 16Halliday
  • 22Docherty
  • 25Alnwick
  • 40Middleton

Shkupi

  • 1Zendeli
  • 11MuaremBooked at 77mins
  • 14Broja
  • 3Tipuric
  • 5BajramiSubstituted forBilaliat 45'minutes
  • 88AdemBooked at 90mins
  • 7LjamcevskiSubstituted forShabaniat 61'minutes
  • 15Owono NchamaaaBooked at 88minsSubstituted forKrivanjevaat 90+2'minutes
  • 18IlijoskiBooked at 32mins
  • 19Vujcic
  • 23Stojkovski

Substitutes

  • 4Bilali
  • 8Shabani
  • 13Aleksovski
  • 16Krivanjeva
  • 25Veliu
  • 34Ismailji
Referee:
Christian Dingert
Attendance:
49,309

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Thursday 12th July 2018

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Villarreal6321106411
2FC Astana6312107310
3Slavia Prague62226608
4Maccabi Tel-Aviv611418-74

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Dynamo Kiev6411159613
2Partizan Belgrade622289-18
3Young Boys613278-16
4Skenderbeu6123610-45

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Sporting Braga631298110
2Ludogorets62317529
3Istanbul Basaksehir622278-18
4Hoffenheim6123810-25

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1AC Milan6321136711
2AEK Athens61506518
3HNK Rijeka62131112-17
4Austria Vienna6123916-75

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Atalanta64201441014
2Lyon6321114711
3Everton6114715-84
4Apollon Limassol6033514-93

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Lokomotiv Moscow632194511
2FC Copenhagen62317349
3Sheriff Tiraspol62314409
4Zlín6024110-92

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Viktoria Plzen6402138512
2Steaua Bucharest631297210
3Lugano6303911-29
4Hapoel Be'er Sheva6114510-54

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Arsenal64111441013
2Red Star Belgrade62313219
3Köln620478-16
4BATE Borisov6123616-105

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1RB Salzburg633071612
2Marseille62224408
3Konyaspor613246-26
4Vitória Guimarães612359-45

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ath Bilbao632185311
2Östersunds FK632184411
3Zorya Luhansk620439-66
4Hertha Berlin612367-15

K

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Lazio6411127513
2Nice630312759
3SV Zulte Waregem6213813-57
4Vitesse6123510-55

L

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Zenit St Petersburg65101751216
2Real Sociedad64021661012
3Rosenborg6123611-55
4Vardar6015320-171
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