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Lafferty the hero as Rangers claim valuable point away to Villarreal

Villareal 2 Rangers


Kyle Lafferty

Kyle Lafferty

Kyle Lafferty

Kyle Lafferty's first ever European goal handed Rangers a hugely impressive 2-2 draw in their Europa League opener with Villarreal.

Steven Gerrard's team were hoping to become the first Ibrox side to triumph away from home against Spanish opposition as they made their group-stage return after eight years in the UEFA wilderness.

They did not quite manage that but did deliver a display of grit and endeavour to kick-off their Group G campaign with a precious point at El Madrigal.

Carlos Bacca and Gerard Moreno twice had LaLiga side Villarreal ahead but the Light Blues refused to buckle, with Scott Arfield netting ahead of Lafferty's maiden goal in continental club competition.

Gerrard sprang a selection shock before kick-off as defender Nikola Katic was dropped despite having barely putting a foot wrong since signing from Slaven Belupo this summer. Joe Worrall got the nod instead as he was handed a surprise debut but the Nottingham Forest loanee could not have got off to a worse start.

The 21-year-old was making his first start for almost six months after finding himself frozen out by Aitor Karanka at the City Ground and he looked rusty as he allowed the ball to ricochet off his body into Bacca's path. The Colombian reacted brilliantly as the ball sat up perfectly just outside the box, arcing a stunning hit over Allan McGregor for the opener just 44 seconds in.

Rangers drew level after 67 minutes as James Tavernier charged into the box. Ruiz got a tackle in but Daniel Candeias was on hand to clip the ball back in for Arfield to sweep home from close range.

However, Villarreal clicked up a gear as substitute Moreno charged past Barisic before rifling past McGregor to regain the lead within two minutes of the equaliser.

But Rangers hit back again as Barisic charged down the left before cutting back for Lafferty, who tucked home to the delight of the 2,200 travelling Gers supporters.

Arfield came close to a dramatic winner in stoppage time.