Europa League - Round of 16 - 1st Leg
RangersRangers3Red Star BelgradeRed Star Belgrade0

Rangers 3-0 Red Star Belgrade: Europa League quarters in sight for Scottish champions

By Nick McPheatBBC Scotland
Leon Balogun scores for Rangers
Could Leon Balogun's second-half header prove decisive for Rangers in Serbia next week?

Rangers took a significant step towards the Europa League quarter-finals with a pulsating statement win over Red Star Belgrade at a raucous Ibrox.

James Tavernier's penalty and Alfredo Morelos' strike in the first 15 minutes sparked the game into life, before Aleksandar Katai - who had already had two efforts ruled offside - had a spot kick saved superbly by Allan McGregor.

That was all in a frantic opening 24 minutes and, although the tempo slowed, Leon Balogun's towering header gave Rangers a commanding lead to protect.

Inconsistent league form has caused the reigning Scottish champions to slip three points adrift in the Premiership, but they seem to find something within them for European nights, having done for Borussia Dortmund in a famous victory in the previous round.

And Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men rose to the occasion again against the Serbian title holders, giving themselves a golden chance to finish the job next Thursday and reach the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2008.

Having already accounted for Alashkert, Brondby, Sparta Prague and Dortmund in the Europa League, there was a fearless nature about Rangers as Red Star travelled to Govan.

That mentality was demonstrated throughout the 90 minutes as Tavernier - just as he did in both legs against Dortmund - broke the deadlock from the spot after a lengthy VAR check judged Slavoljub Srnic's lazy leg to have tripped Ryan Kent.

Van Bronckhorst couldn't watch on the touchline, but the Dutchman opened his eyes to see a bouncing Ibrox as the captain's penalty rippled in the top-right corner.

That came after Red Star's Katai had a delightful finish ruled out for offside, and the hosts suffered another scare when Katai rounded McGregor and found the back of the net again, but the striker was against frustrated by the assistant's flag.

Red Star's misfortune was Rangers' gain when the Scottish champions raced up the other end and doubled their lead. Ryan Jack's clipped cross to the back post headed out to Morelos, who guided a first-time finish on the half-volley into the net.

It was a 32nd Europa League goal for the Colombian - only former Celtic striker Henrik Larsson (40) and ex-Netherlands forward Klaas Jan Huntelaar (34) have scored more in the competition.

Rangers were purring, and with a cleaner connection from Kent, who scuffed a close-range finish into the grateful arms of Borjan, the hosts would have had a remarkable three-goal lead before the halfway stage of the first half.

The Serbs were still posing a threat, though, and had a golden chance of their own to pull a goal back when Jack tugged Mirko Ivanic in the box.

Katai stepped up, but the Red Star forward - who has 23 goals in 34 games so far this term - was denied by McGregor, who flung himself to his right and got a strong wrist behind the fiercely-struck spot kick.

There were a few minutes to catch breath before a little more first-half drama, when scintillating build-up resulted in Kamara skiing over, before Ohi Omoijuanfo's sliding effort up the other end trickled into the arms of McGregor.

Rangers fans were treated to a memorable Ibrox night against Dortmund, and there was more bedlam in the stadium when Balogun towered above everyone in the area to power in Tavernier's corner shortly after the break.

Tavernier then had a free-kick curl the wrong side of a post before the captain delivered on three occasions for Goldson, who had one header cleared off the line, another saved by Borjan, and knocked a third wide at the back post.

With Rangers tiring, and a second leg to play, Red Star fought to reduce the deficit and had second-half efforts thwarted by the enduring McGregor.

El Fardou Ben and Katai were both denied at the Rangers keeper's near post either side of a stunning long-range effort from Guelor Kanga that crashed off the bar.

And with the game in the closing stages, McGregor again had to be alert to deny Ivanic, with Ben Nabouhane's tap-in on the rebound disallowed by another assistant's flag, meaning the Ibrox side take a three-goal lead into next Thursday's second leg.

Man of the match - James Tavernier

James Tavernier
Another game, another goal and another assist in an outstanding all-round display from the captain

What did we learn?

Van Bronckhorst will be understandably elated with his players after yet another notable win in Europe, but the Dutchman must be scratching his head at where these performances are domestically.

There is no doubt about it, if Rangers play like this consistently in the Premiership, they retain the title. But consistency has been lacking this year, and could cost them the championship.

In a game of fine margins, the contest could have been so different if Katai's penalty or any of Red Star's three, correctly disallowed, offside goals had gone the other way.

The Serbian champions look a tidy outfit, and while Rangers appear to have one foot in the quarters, they cannot afford to take Stankovic's men lightly next week in what will be a hostile atmosphere in Belgrade.

What did they say?

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst to BT Sport: "I'm very pleased, it was a really tough game. The 3-0 scoreline, you wouldn't expect it when you see the game, but in the end I'm happy we scored three goals.

"You could see the quality of the team, they're not bad, but I think we performed really well. John [Lundstram] had an important role, we prepared him for the different systems we could play against. He was the key second half."

Match stats

  • Having lost their opening two Europa League group games this season, Rangers are unbeaten in their last seven, winning four and drawing three.
  • This is the first time they have kept a clean sheet at home in a Europa League knockout tie. They've conceded in each of their seven previous games, losing 13 goals in total.
  • Red Star have only won one of their seven matches in Scotland (D2 L4), with that victory in November 1961 against Hibernian in the Fairs Cup.
  • Tavernier has had as many goal involvements in eight Europa League games this season (4 goals, 2 assists) as in his previous 25 European club games (3 goals, 3 assists).
  • The Rangers captain has scored more penalties (3) than any other player in the Europa League this season, while no player has won more penalties than Kent (2).
  • Since his first season in the Europa League in 2018-19, only Munas Dabbur (17) and Bruno Fernandes (16) have scored more goals in the competition than Morelos (15).

What's next?

Rangers are in Scottish Cup quarter-final duty on Sunday as they go to Dundee (16:00 GMT), before next Thursday's second leg in Belgrade (17:45).

Player of the match

MorelosAlfredo Morelos

with an average of 8.51

Rangers

  1. Squad number20Player nameMorelos
    Average rating

    8.51

  2. Squad number2Player nameTavernier
    Average rating

    8.42

  3. Squad number1Player nameMcGregor
    Average rating

    8.42

  4. Squad number26Player nameBalogun
    Average rating

    8.30

  5. Squad number3Player nameBassey
    Average rating

    8.11

  6. Squad number8Player nameJack
    Average rating

    8.05

  7. Squad number14Player nameKent
    Average rating

    8.04

  8. Squad number4Player nameLundstram
    Average rating

    7.96

  9. Squad number6Player nameGoldson
    Average rating

    7.62

  10. Squad number18Player nameKamara
    Average rating

    7.40

  11. Squad number17Player nameAyodele-Aribo
    Average rating

    7.40

  12. Squad number19Player nameSands
    Average rating

    6.93

  13. Squad number30Player nameSakala
    Average rating

    6.85

Red Star Belgrade

  1. Squad number10Player nameKatai
    Average rating

    5.44

  2. Squad number8Player nameKanga
    Average rating

    4.96

  3. Squad number82Player nameBorjan
    Average rating

    4.84

  4. Squad number25Player nameErakovic
    Average rating

    4.66

  5. Squad number23Player nameRodic
    Average rating

    4.60

  6. Squad number99Player nameOmoijuanfo
    Average rating

    4.59

  7. Squad number4Player nameIvanic
    Average rating

    4.57

  8. Squad number24Player namePiccini
    Average rating

    4.56

  9. Squad number15Player nameDragovic
    Average rating

    4.54

  10. Squad number55Player nameSrnic
    Average rating

    4.53

  11. Squad number35Player nameSanogo
    Average rating

    4.50

  12. Squad number9Player namePavkov
    Average rating

    4.33

  13. Squad number2Player nameGajic
    Average rating

    4.29

  14. Squad number31Player nameBen Nabouhane
    Average rating

    4.17

  15. Squad number17Player nameMotika
    Average rating

    4.08

Line-ups

Rangers

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1McGregor
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 26Balogun
  • 3Bassey
  • 4Lundstram
  • 8JackBooked at 23minsSubstituted forSandsat 75'minutes
  • 17Ayodele-AriboBooked at 30minsSubstituted forSakalaat 75'minutes
  • 18Kamara
  • 14Kent
  • 20Morelos

Substitutes

  • 9Diallo
  • 16Ramsey
  • 19Sands
  • 23Wright
  • 25Roofe
  • 28McCrorie
  • 30Sakala
  • 31Barisic
  • 33McLaughlin
  • 43King
  • 51Lowry

Red Star Belgrade

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 82Borjan
  • 24PicciniSubstituted forGajicat 72'minutes
  • 25ErakovicBooked at 81mins
  • 15Dragovic
  • 23RodicBooked at 60mins
  • 55SrnicSubstituted forBen Nabouhaneat 61'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 35SanogoBooked at 25mins
  • 10KataiSubstituted forMotikaat 84'minutes
  • 8Kanga
  • 4Ivanic
  • 99OmoijuanfoSubstituted forPavkovat 61'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Popovic
  • 2Gajic
  • 6Pankov
  • 7Krsticic
  • 9Pavkov
  • 11Falco
  • 17Motika
  • 30Zivkovic
  • 31Ben Nabouhane
  • 49Radulovic
  • 51Gordic
  • 77Gobeljic
Referee:
Serdar Gözübüyük
Attendance:
48,589

Match Stats

Home TeamRangersAway TeamRed Star Belgrade
Possession
Home47%
Away53%
Shots
Home13
Away15
Shots on Target
Home8
Away4
Corners
Home6
Away5
Fouls
Home15
Away21

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Rangers 3, Red Star Belgrade 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Rangers 3, Red Star Belgrade 0.

  3. Booking

    El Fardou Ben Nabouhane (Red Star Belgrade) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  4. Post update

    Foul by El Fardou Ben Nabouhane (Red Star Belgrade).

  5. Post update

    James Sands (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  6. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Milan Gajic.

  7. Post update

    Attempt saved. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Glen Kamara.

  8. Post update

    Foul by Mirko Ivanic (Red Star Belgrade).

  9. Post update

    Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  10. Post update

    Attempt missed. Connor Goldson (Rangers) header from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by James Tavernier with a cross following a set piece situation.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Sekou Sanogo (Red Star Belgrade).

  12. Post update

    Glen Kamara (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  13. Post update

    Foul by Milan Pavkov (Red Star Belgrade).

  14. Post update

    Calvin Bassey (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  15. Post update

    Milan Rodic (Red Star Belgrade) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Fashion Sakala (Rangers).

  17. Post update

    Offside, Red Star Belgrade. Milan Gajic tries a through ball, but El Fardou Ben Nabouhane is caught offside.

  18. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Nemanja Motika (Red Star Belgrade) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Milan Gajic.

  19. Post update

    Offside, Red Star Belgrade. Mirko Ivanic tries a through ball, but El Fardou Ben Nabouhane is caught offside.

  20. Post update

    Attempt saved. Mirko Ivanic (Red Star Belgrade) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Milan Pavkov.

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Thursday 10th March 2022

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