Rangers’ Europa League campaign bursts into life with a home win over Brondby
Rangers’ Europa League campaign burst into life with an ultimately convincing 2-0 win over Brondby at Ibrox.
After opening Group A defeats to Lyon and Sparta Prague, the pressure was on the Scottish champions but they took the lead in the 18th minute when defender Leon Balogun headed his first goal in Light Blue from a James Tavernier corner.
Striker Kemar Roofe added a second on the half-hour mark after his close-range finish was confirmed onside by VAR and although there were no more goals the Scottish champions ran out deserved winners.
After beating Sparta Prague 4-3 away, French side Lyon have nine points from nine, Sparta are on four points with Rangers now on three ahead of the return game against Brondby on November 4.
With Glen Kamara suspended after being sent off in Prague, veteran Steven Davis returned to the midfield and Roofe took over from Scott Wright in attack.
Brondby boss Niels Frederiksen was without first-choice keeper Mads Hermansen through injury, his place taken by veteran Thomas Mikkelsen.
Within the first 30 seconds visiting striker Mikael Uhre blazed a shot over the bar to serve warning to the Scottish champions.
The home side slowly got into their stride without being able to test Mikkelsen but they did ask a question with their first effort on target and the keeper failed to come up with an answer.
Captain Tavernier appeared to be targeted with several missiles from the Brondby fans when he went to take Rangers’ first corner of the game but when he flighted the ball into the middle Balogun rose highest to power in a header past the diving Mikkelsen from seven yards for his first counter for the Ibrox club.
The Light Blues appeared in control but in the 26th minute Brondby striker Andrija Pavlovic cleared the bar from a Uhre cut-back from barely six yards out and within minutes they were two goals down.
Roofe had the ball in the net from close range at the other end after Mikkelsen had parried a header from Alfredo Morelos but was initially ruled offside.
Referee Fran Jovic checked VAR and after a long wait, awarded the goal as it was shown Roofe was onside when the Colombia striker had his attempt on goal with Ibrox erupting again.
Morelos smacked the far post with a 25-yard drive and Mikkelsen save a redirected effort from Roofe before the interval as Rangers finished strongly.
Uhre had another great chance within seconds of the restart when Gers defender Borna Barisic was short with a pass back but this time he shot past the post with only keeper Allan McGregor to beat, before Balogun blocked a goal-bound shot from Jens Martin Gammelby.
The Govan side stood firm under pressure and at the other end there was a huge penalty claim when Gers’ influential midfielder Joe Aribo was brought down by defender Sigurd Rosted inside the Brondby box but referee Jovic was unmoved.
Balogun was replaced by Calvin Bassey in the 63rd minute before Fashion Sakala came on for Morelos and Rangers had more defending to do to keep the visitors at bay.
In the 78th minute Scott Arfield, Wright and Juninho Bacuna came on for John Lundstram, Roofe and Ianis Hagi as Steven Gerrard looked for some added impetus.
Arfield soon hit the bar from a Wright cut-back and Sakala got through only to have a shot blocked by Mikkelsen although boss Gerrard would have been pleased enough with the victory.
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