Rangers stun Red Star in Europa League

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 traveled 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

More to follow.


MorelosAlfred Morelos


  1. squad numbertwentyplayer nameMorelos

  2. squad number1player namemcgregor

  3. squad numbertwoplayer nameTavernier

  4. squad number26player nameBalogun

  5. squad number3player nameBassey

  6. squad number8player nameJack

  7. squad number14player nameKent

  8. squad number4player nameLundstram

  9. squad number6player nameGoldson

  10. squad number18player nameKamara

  11. squad number17player nameAyodele-Aribo

  12. squad number19player nameSand’s

  13. squad number30player namesakala

Red Star Belgrade

  1. squad number10player nameKatai

  2. squad number8player nameKanga

  3. squad number82player nameborján

  4. squad number25player nameErakovic

  5. squad number23player namerodic

  6. squad number99player nameomoijuanfo

  7. squad number24player namepicnic

  8. squad number4player nameivanic

  9. squad numberfifteenplayer nameDragović

  10. squad number35player nameSanogo

  11. squad number55player nameSrnic

  12. squad number9player namePavkov

  13. squad numbertwoplayer nameGajic

  14. squad number31player nameBen Nabouhane

  15. squad number17player nameMotika



Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1mcgregor
  • twoTavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 26Balogun
  • 3Bassey
  • 4Lundstram
  • 8JackBooked at 23minsSubstituted forSand’sat 75′minutes
  • 17Ayodele-AriboBooked at 30minsSubstituted forsakalaat 75′minutes
  • 18Kamara
  • 14Kent
  • twentyMorelos


  • 9Diallo
  • 16Ramsey
  • 19Sand’s
  • 23Wright
  • 25Roofe
  • 28McCrorie
  • 30sakala
  • 31barisic
  • 33McLaughlin
  • 43King
  • 51Lowry

Red Star Belgrade

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 82borján
  • 24picnicSubstituted forGajicat 72′minutes
  • 25ErakovicBooked at 81mins
  • fifteenDragović
  • 23rodicBooked at 60mins
  • 55SrnicSubstituted forBen Nabouhaneat 61′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 35SanogoBooked at 25mins
  • 10KataiSubstituted forMotikaat 84′minutes
  • 8Kanga
  • 4ivanic
  • 99omoijuanfoSubstituted forPavkovat 61′minutes


  • 1Popović
  • twoGajic
  • 6Pankov
  • 7Krsticic
  • 9Pavkov
  • elevenFalco
  • 17Motika
  • 30Zivkovic
  • 31Ben Nabouhane
  • 49Radulović
  • 51Gordic
  • 77Gobeljic

Serdar Gözübuyuk



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