Super Eagles trio Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo were rated above average as Rangers zoomed into the next stage of Europa despite losing 2-1 to Red Star Belgrade in Serbia Thursday. Compatriot Calvin Bassey equally got a six out of ten rating in the encounter. Rangers embraced the Quaterfinals with a 4-2 aggregate having won the first leg by 3-0 with Balogun contributing one of the goals.
Allan McGregor produced a man-of-the-match display but Ryan Kent was Rangers’ goalscoring hero on the night as his deflected shot 11 minutes into the second half took the sting out of Red Star’s recovery mission, fuelled by Mirko Ivanic’s instinctive early finish
Substitute El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time after Glen Kamara fouled Filippo Falco to ensure the hosts won on the night but the damage had already been done during the first leg.
Rangers arrived in Serbia defended a 3-0 lead following goals from James Tavernier, Alfredo Morelos and Leon Balogun on a famous night last week at Ibrox. This was their 50th match of season but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were caught in an early storm with Ivanic shaving into the deficit after just 10 minutes.
Rangers made four changes from Sunday’s Scottish Cup win at Dundee, but unchanged from last Thursday’s first-leg where they claimed a 3-0 victoy. That meant it was a back five of Allan McGregor in goal with James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey in front of him.
Ryan Jack, John Lundstram and Glen Kamara were in midfield, while Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos played in attack.
It was a poor concession as Guelor Kanga’s corner from the right evaded Morelos and Glen Kamara didn’t react quick enough as Ivanic breathed life into the tie. A big hand from Allan McGregor denied Ivanic a second before Milan Pavkov dragged another presentable opportunity wide.
The Ibrox club had the chance to reach the last eight of the Europa League for the first time since they went all the way to the final in 2008, but they were indebted to veteran goalkeeper McGregor after his sublime save to deny Red Star a second before the break through Cristiano Piccini’s curling effort.
Rangers’ 2,000 travelling fans were drowned out by a partisan home crowd at the Marakana, and the visitors threatened sporadically in the opening period as Morelos fired wide after being sent through by Kamara.Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave his boys a pat on the back saying “I’m more than happy with everyone involved with this club that we’re through.”