Rangers mark return to Europe with narrow victory

By Matt T
29 June 2017

Rangers made a winning start as they brought their six-year European hiatus to an end with a narrow 1-0 win over Progres Niederkorn at Ibrox.

The Light Blues' 2012 financial implosion left them locked outside the continent's elite.

But it was an underwhelming Europa League return as Kenny Miller's first-half winner saw Rangers scrape a first-leg win over their opening qualifying round opponents from Luxembourg.

Boss Pedro Caixinha started with three of his eight summer signings against the part-timers as defender Fabio Cordoso, midfielder Ryan Jack and wideman Dalcio got the nod.

However, it was Niko Kranjcar - finally back after his eight-month knee injury nightmare - who impressed most as he sprayed passes one way and the other.

The fevered Ibrox faithful reacted to last week's news of a peace deal with Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley by snapping up both kits and tickets in their thousands.

And they turned the volume all the way up as the home side strode out into the sold-out stadium.

But while Jack and Kranjcar looked sharp, running the show from the centre of the park, there was a sluggish look about their team-mates as they kicked off their first competitive game of the new campaign.

It was the midfield duo who produced the game's first chances as Jack saw an effort blocked before the Croat flashed wide.

Kranjcar wasted a great chance 23 minutes in as he skewed his header wide after James Tavernier swept a dangerous ball to the back post, while David Bates fired over from a Kranjcar corner.

Just as blue nerves started to jangle with eight minutes to go until half-time, the former Portsmouth and Tottenham playmaker spotted the crucial chink in Progres' armour.

The minnows conceded a free-kick on the edge of their own box and as they jogged back into position Kranjcar took the set-piece quickly, releasing Miller to slot underneath Sebastien Flauss.

But the visiting stopper did better as he parried another Kranjcar effort and a diving Cordoso header before the break.

Miller shot wide early in the second period but there was a heart-in-mouth moment as Alexander Karapetian was left all alone to fire straight at Wes Foderingham.

Gers were failing to make the most of their huge possession numbers but even the introduction of another new signing Daniel Candeias did little to up the intensity levels.

The obviously spent Kranjcar bowed out with 23 minutes left and was replaced by Jordan Rossiter as he returned from an even longer injury lay-off.

Candeias did sting the palms of Flauss with 20 minutes left, while Colombian poacher Alfredo Morelos was introduced with a quarter of an hour left for his Light Blues bow.

Bates had a header cleared off the line by Adrian Ferino in stoppage time and with no further gains Caixinha's team will have to hope their slender lead is enough to see them through Tuesday's return leg.

Rangers Match Reports

UEFA Europa League Tue 4th July 18:45

2 - 0 Rangers

Last game - Match Centre


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