Rangers climbed top of Europa League Group G after a draw with Feyenoord and will reach the last 32 if they avoid defeat against Young Boys at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard’s men are a point above both Porto and Young Boys after the Portuguese won in Switzerland to prevent Rangers sealing a knockout place for the first time since 2011.
After falling behind in Rotterdam to Jens Toornstra’s opener, two brilliant second-half Alfredo Morelos headers had Rangers ahead before Luis Sinisterra’s solo effort levelled the score.
In scoring his 23rd and 24th goals of the season, Morelos becomes the first Rangers player to net in four consecutive matches in a major European competition.
He nodded in Ryan Kent’s swerving ball to haul his side level after Feyenoord had dominated the first half, striking a post through Leroy Fer and drawing several big saves from Allan McGregor.
Then the Colombia striker flicked a Borna Barisic cross delicately into the net before the Dutch roared back to claim a point.
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‘Madness reigns in bubbling Tub’
As the smoke lifted, the noise descended. High in the Rotterdam sky, an explosive spectacle was unfolding. Behind one end of Feyenoord’s De Kuip – which translates as The Tub – a prolonged fireworks display shimmered and shone as both sets of players ascended to the pitch, an eerie mist from pyrotechnics in the Rangers end enveloping the 50,000 souls inside.
Upon its clearing, a show befitting this iconic arena erupted. Quite literally. Every duck and turn from a red-and-white jersey was met with thunder from the sodden stands, each wave of attack from Dick Advocaat’s team had the Tub stirred into a ferocious cauldron.
There will be those here – who still have their voice to do so – that will struggle to articulate the mesmeric second half in which this contest burst into a Europa League epic. Nobody saw this coming after a 45 minutes where Rangers offered precious little for their 3,000 fans to shout about. A slithering Sheyi Ojo pass that the sliding Morelos missed was about it in front of a third-choice goalkeeper in Nick Marsman, who did not have a save to make.
The same could not be said of his counterpart at the other end. McGregor produced a phenomenal stop to block Steven Berghuis’ goal-bound effort, Fer’s follow-up hitting a post, cranking the decibels up a notch or three.
In truth, it was all too easy for Feyenoord, a team that – under Jaap Stam – limped to defeat at Ibrox without the merest hint of conviction in their display. Here, under Advocaat, they were a side possessed. Every second ball was won; every loose pass chased down. Rangers’ midfield couldn’t cope.
Despite that, when the opener came, it was like a punch in the stomach to Gerrard’s team given a foothold had just about been found. A loose cross was not dealt with, Toornstra got the greasy ball under control 20 yards out, but it was the deflection off Filip Helander that beat McGregor. The lid almost came off the Tub.
The hosts were in command, with a string of near misses threatening the Rangers goal, McGregor thwarting Berguis again.
Yet, as the deluge stopped at half-time, the goals and madness started to rain down. At the heart of it was Morelos. The first of the striker’s goals was carved out by Kent, by far Rangers’ most creative force. His swinging cross was perfect for the Colombian at the back post, the execution clinical. The top tier at the far end of the ground exploded in a blurry vision of limbs.
Morelos was a menace to the home defence, and after dragging his team off the canvass, the striker was denied a penalty when he went down under the challenge of Fey. But his second goal was not long in coming. Just 13 minutes after levelling, he struck again as Feyenoord threatened to buckle.
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Barisic was the provider, the head of Morelos once more diverting the ball looping across Marsman and into the far corner. Forty-five-thousand looked at each other in disbelief as their Europa League pulse began to fade.
But this game was not done yet. That lead lasted just three minutes. The impressive Sinisterra was the main protagonist in the game’s latest plot twist. He turned and swivelled his way into the Rangers box on the break, leaving Helander in a tangled heap on the turf. The Feyenoord forward held his nerve as Connor Goldson approached, lifting the ball over McGregor.
The game then swung towards the hosts as the crowd’s belief swelled more. Their team pushed and pulled a Rangers side that did well to hold firm in the face of a torrent of late pressure.
As the full-time whistle sounded, it was a result that triggered celebration in the away end as muted silence fell again on the home support. Porto’s unexpected win in Switzerland stopped Rangers’ progression, but it did nudge them to the top of Group G with one game left to play. By the time that is played in two weeks’ time, we may have summoned our breath back.
Man of the match – Ryan Kent
It is hard to not give it to Morelos given his goals, but Kent really was the bright light for Rangers, particularly during a gloomy first half that offered little encouragement. Playing on the left, he got one assist, while his surging runs repeatedly caused problems.
A big mention also has to go to Feyenoord captain Berghuis, a driving force for the hosts.
- Rangers have only lost one of their 16 away games in all competitions this season (W10 D5) and are unbeaten in six (W3 D3) since losing 2-1 to Young Boys in October.
- They are winless in 15 away matches in all major European competitions (excluding qualifiers), drawing 10 and losing five since a 2-0 win at Sporting CP in the 2007-08 Uefa Cup quarter-final.
- Morelos has become the first player to score in four consecutive matches in major European competition for Rangers (excluding qualifiers).
- Under Gerrard, Morelos has scored 54 goals in all competitions, at least 33 more than any other Rangers player.
- Barisic has assisted a goal in five of his seven appearances in the Europa League.
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