Rangers survived a late onslaught in Portugal to earn a deserved Europa League draw with Porto.
Allan McGregor was the hero at the death with a stunning double save to ensure Steven Gerrard’s men finish matchday three in the second spot.
Luis Diaz put the hosts in front after 36 minutes, but Alfredo Morelos scored his 10th goal in 11 Europa League games to level before the break.
The sides – who are level on points – meet again at Ibrox on 7 November.
Both trail group leaders Young Boys by two points in Group G after they beat Feyenoord in Switzerland.
To say that Morelos’ influence on Rangers is important is up there with claiming Brexit is a tad complicated. Yet, the prolonged influence of the Colombian on the continent this season may well be the key to keeping at least Rangers in Europe beyond Christmas.
His strike in Portugal was his 10th of the season in the Europa League, and may yet prove to be one of the most crucial as Ranger’s inch closer towards the knockout stages.
Borna Barisic’s arcing, an inch-perfect cross found Morelos unmarked at the back post on a quick breakaway. The beleaguered Porto defence had no time to react before the ball was crashed high into the net.
In truth, that goal, which cancelled out Diaz’s opener eight minutes earlier, could easily have contributed to a hat-trick on the night.
Moments before his equaliser, he nodded a James Tavernier corner off the bar, while a sensational point-blank save from Agustin Marchesin denied a strong header from the striker eight minutes after the break.
However, it was not all plain sailing for Gerrard’s team. A rocky start in front of a half-empty Estadio do Dragao hinted at a difficult night ahead for the Scottish Premiership side.
Backed by 4,000 fans, most of whom housed in the rafters of this colossal arena, Rangers initially started brightly. Ryan Kent, one of four reinstated into the starting XI, marauded forward on the break, but his counter did not yield a shot on target. Tavernier’s wild volley was just as far away.
Instead, it was the hosts, off the back of a 2-0 defeat away to Feyenoord, who threatened the most early on.
As Rangers huffed and puffed in front of goal, Porto threatened to blow their opponents away. Alex Telles floated a free-kick just over. Ze Luis struck the post in an early move. Just three minutes later, the third strike was more decisive.
Ryan Jack, who extended his Rangers contract on Tuesday, did his side’s cause no good as his errant pass out from the back was intercepted. Diaz stood him up and, with room to shoot, arrowed an inch-perfect shot that flashed across McGregor and high into the net.
It is to the credit of Gerrard’s men that they did not buckle. Nor did they offer any encouragement as Morelos quickly led the charge with his leveller.
In truth, there was little threat to McGregor’s goal after the break until the last five minutes as the second half was played out with only the odd flash at either end. Moussa Marega and then Francisco Soares both were thwarted as the 37-year-old former Scotland goalkeeper defied his years.
In the end, a point was thoroughly deserved by a Rangers side that continues to make strides in Europe under Gerrard. Claim victory at Ibrox in a fortnight, and already the prospect of a prolonged stay in Europe seems well within their grasp.
Bringing the veteran Northern Irishman back to Ibrox from Southampton has proved to be a wise move. The 34-year-old made good use of his vast international experience to control the pace of Rangers’ play but offered so much more.
He ventured forward rarely, his best work taking place in front of the back four. He cut out dangerous balls into the centre of Rangers’ defence, harried his opponents to deny them time to look up, pinged balls out to his left for Barisic to attack and was the fulcrum of his team’s impressive short passing movements which retained possession and moved Rangers up the pitch. All in all, a classy display.
You might also like – Slovan Bratislava 1-2 Wolves #EuropaLeague
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ produced a stirring Europa League fightback to beat Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia and move into the second spot in Group K.
Trailing at half-time to Andraz Sporar’s deflected shot, Wolves scored twice in the space of five second-half minutes through Romain Saiss and a penalty by Raul Jimenez. read more
Source – BBC