5 - 2Full Time
KO KO 9 31 46 46 46 55 57 60 70 71 71 75 75 79 82 82 82 85 92 FT
RANGERS are through to the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 after goals from Alfredo Morelos, Nathan Patterson, Ryan Kent, Borna Barisic and Cedric Itten secured a 5-2 win over Royal Antwerp at Ibrox Stadium this evening, giving the Light Blues an 9-5 aggregate victory.
The visitors, despite being 4-3 down after the first leg, were still very much in the tie ahead of tonight’s clash but their chances of progressing looked slim when Gers’ record European scorer Morelos coolly found the net following a defensive error after just nine minutes.
Antwerp, however, responded well to going behind and after a period of pressure they equalised, with the dangerous Lior Refaelov finishing well from a tight angle after the half-hour mark.
With Rangers 5-4 up on aggregate at the half-time break – and with four away goals scored – Steven Gerrard elected to introduce Nathan Patterson to the game, the 19-year-old taking the place of Leon Balogun who had been booked in the first half.
Remarkably, it only took the youngster 17 seconds to have a stunning impact on the match as he made it 2-1 with his first senior goal.
Rangers made it 3-1 on 55 minutes and again it was a goal of real quality. Morelos once more was the architect as he darted past a defender and his brilliant cutback was drilled home by Kent.
The drama was not finished there though. Antwerp pulled another goal back on 57 minutes with Didier Lamkel Ze taking advantage of a defensive mistake to take the aggregate score, incredibly, to 7-5.
Barisic and Itten then made it 5-2 on the night with two well-taken penalties after Morelos and Scott Wright had been fouled as Rangers booked their place in the Round of 16 draw, which takes place tomorrow in Nyon, Switzerland.
With Ryan Jack unavailable due to a calf injury, Glen Kamara returned to Steven Gerrard’s team for kick-off tonight, meaning the Finn has now started all 11 of Rangers’ European matches this term along with Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic.
After a positive start, it was the hosts that created the first opportunity of the game as they looked to increase their aggregate advantage. Ryan Kent’s left-foot shot flew across goalkeeper De Wolf and wide of his far post after terrific build-up play involving Kamara, Hagi and Morelos.
Kent then tried to find the same bottom corner with an effort from distance but De Wolf got his fingertips to the ball at full stretch to turn the ball past the post.
Rangers were clearly up for it and after just nine minutes they took the lead. A poor, short back pass from defender Jeremy Gelin to De Wolf allowed the lively Kent to intercept. He fed the ball to Morelos who fired it confidently into the empty for his 13th goal of the season and his fifth in Europe.
On 30 minutes a deep cross from Jordan Lukaku found Aurelio Buta but his ambitious volley went well wide of target.
Two minutes later, however, and Frank Vercauteren’s men had pulled a goal back. Lior Refaelov netted his second goal of the tie with a clever flicked finish from another Lukaku delivery.
The goal gave the visitors a lift and before the half-time whistle Lukaku skipped past Balogun but his powerful shot rippled the side netting at Allan McGregor’s near post.
If that was good Rangers’ third goal on 55 minutes was arguably even better. Morelos was at his menacing best as he drove past a defender and his cross was for Kent was perfect, with the winger hitting it first time to beat De Wolf.
At 3-1 Rangers had already done enough to book their place in the next round, but two minutes after Kent’s superb strike they conceded another sloppy goal, which will no doubt have annoyed Gerrard given the high standards he demands.
In injury time Rangers were again awarded another spot kick but this time substitute Cedric Itten stepped up and his powerful drive made it 5-2 for his side and 9-5 on aggregate on a remarkable night at Ibrox.
RANGERS (4-3-3): McGregor; Balogun (Patterson 45), Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Davis (Zungu 81), Aribo, Kamara; Kent (Wright 81), Hagi (Arfield 71), Morelos (Itten 85)
SUBS NOT USED: McLaughlin, Bassey, Stewart, Simpson, King
GOALS: Morelos 9, Patterson 46, Kent 55, Barisic 78pen, Itten 90+1pen
BOOKINGS: Balogun, Kamara
ROYAL ANTWERP (3-5-2): De Wolf; De Laet, Gelin (Boya 45), Le Marchand; Buta, Gerkens (Avenatti 75), Verstraete, Hongla (Miyoshi 81), Lukaku (Ampomah 75); Lamkel Ze, Refaelov
SUBS NOT USED: Beiranvand, Chevaughn, Pavlic, Van Den Bosch
GOALS: Refaelov 32, Lamkel Ze 57
BOOKINGS: Hongla, La Marchand
REF: Pawel Raczkowski (POL)
Match report originally posted here.