Rangers hosted Villarreal CF at Ibrox in Europa League play and despite being down to 10 men for much of the match, battled their way to a draw to keep their hopes alive in Europe.
Rangers headed into their second to last Europa League match with Spanish club Villarreal CF at Ibrox on Thursday night. The team was in good form following back to back victories of convincing fashion in the Scottish Premiership and they looked to take control of their fate in Europe.
The first half was a back and forth affair, Rangers looked to be more in control but Villarreal had their share of possession. Scott Arfield was particularly dangerous for Rangers in the early going.
Then in the 36th minute, Daniel Candeias received a yellow card for a late challenge, then shortly after, in the 44th minute, he received his second yellow for another late challenge and was sent off.
The second booking, in particular, was especially terrible by the referees, the challenge was not deserving of a booking and even if it was, Candeias was not even the player who fouled him! Upon review, Alfredo Morelos was clearly the perpetrator of the foul, with Candeias simply arriving on the scene.
Such facts did not sway the refs, however, as Candeias was sent from the pitch and Rangers were forced to play the second half with 10 men.
The entire second half Rangers defended with real heart and Allan McGregor continued to show his quality as one of the best keepers alive. The defense limited breakthroughs and when there was one McGregor was up to the challenge.
Rangers didn’t let themselves fall totally into defense either and managed the occasional counter-attack. At one point Glenn Middleton appeared to have slotted home a tie-breaking goal but it was called off (correctly) for offsides.
The tie is disappointing. Rangers often looked the better side, and you have to think that had Candeias not been incorrectly sent off they likely would’ve found a winning goal. However, the result does keep Rangers hopes of advancing alive.
Their last group stage match will be in Austria against Rapid Vien, and if Rangers win they will advance. It is not easy to go on the road and win, especially in Europe, but if, back at the start of the European campaign, I had been told Rangers would go into their final group stage match with the opportunity to advance with a win, I would’ve taken it.
Rangers will be back in action in the Scottish Premiership against Hearts of Midlothian on Sunday.