Monday 10 December 2018

Ten-man Rangers stay in Europa League hunt after goalless draw with Villarreal

Rangers 0 Villarreal 0

Soccer Football - Europa League - Group Stage - Group G - Rangers v Villarreal - Ibrox, Glasgow, Britain - November 29, 2018 Rangers' James Tavernier in action with Villarreal's Alvaro. Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Soccer Football - Europa League - Group Stage - Group G - Rangers v Villarreal - Ibrox, Glasgow, Britain - November 29, 2018 Rangers' James Tavernier in action with Villarreal's Alvaro. Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Andy Newport

Rangers remain in the hunt for the Europa League last 32 after Steven Gerrard's side survived 45 minutes with 10 men to claim what could yet be a crucial point from Villarreal.

A controversial red card for Daniel Candeias just before half-time left Gers up against it.

But for the second time in this campaign, the Light Blues frustrated the Yellow Submarine as they battled to a merited 0-0 draw at Ibrox.

And it leaves their destiny firmly in their own hands - with victory against Rapid Vienna in Austria in two weeks' time guaranteeing passage to the knock-out rounds.

Rangers, roared on by pumped up capacity crowd, chased after the Yellow Submarine with a wild hunger, forcing their opponents into mistakes.

Yet the hosts were also guilty of leaving too much space for the visitors and the result was a compelling end-to-end contest.

The first opening broke at Scott Arfield's feet but he could only stab the ball straight at Andres Fernandez.

Villarreal's Karl Toko Ekambi then burst into box but Carlos Bacca could not provide killer touch as the Cameroon international fired across goal.

Alfredo Morelos saw a neat flick at the near-post bounce over before Bacca gave Joe Worrall the slip with a dip of the shoulder but from the cut-back, Ekambi made a mess of his finish.

Rangers should have struck on the half-hour mark as Arfield clipped a cross to the back post but Connor Goldson blazed over from Worrall's knock down.

The Ibrox side had to be bailed out by two incredible saves from Allan McGregor as he twice stood up to deny Ekambi one on one.

But on the stroke of half-time came the moment of drama. Candeias - already on a booking after bringing down Jaume Costa - raced to chase down Santiago Caseres alongside James Tavernier and Morelos.

All four ended up in a heap and as Caseres rolled around theatrically, Slovenian referee Matej Jug decided the Portuguese winger was to blame and flashed a second yellow - although he had to be reminded by the visitors that a red was required.

McGregor was required again just after the restart as he pushed away a Mario Gaspar drive while Glenn Middleton, pushed through the middle to partner Morelos by Gerrard, fired over as Rangers refused to let their heads sink.

Javier Calleja's frustration with his side's lack of cutting edge saw him introduce Santi Cazorla on 62 minutes but even the former Arsenal man could find not a way past Gers' stubborn resistance.

It was Rangers who were cheering with 14 minutes left as Middleton prodded home from a Tavernier cross - but the celebrations were quickly hushed as his strike was ruled out for offside.

Kyle Lafferty then replaced Morelos and turned the decibel levels up again with a rasping drive that Fernandez had to push over.

Gerrard screamed at his men to continue pressing as the game moved into the final 10 minutes as the responded by bravely putting their bodies on the line. McGregor denied Samu Chukweze with another fine stop while Ramiro Funes Mori wasted a great chance at the death to snatch the win for the visitors.

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