Rampant Rangers Roll Over Red Star Belgrade

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men provided plenty of entertainment to a jubilant Ibrox crowd
21:57, 10 Mar 2022

After a seismic upset, such as Rangers’ elimination of Borussia Dortmund from the Europa League, there can be a hangover. But there was no such after-effects for the Scottish giants as they continued their continental campaign with a 3-0 win over Red Star Belgrade at Ibrox.

What looked like a nightmare opening soon became a dream for Rangers. Aleksandar Katai had an early top-corner drive chalked off for offside after a VAR check. But the video official would soon have an even greater influence over matters.

Ryan Kent was tripped by Slavoljub Srnić, and a long VAR consultation eventually saw the contact and the fact it took place in the area. James Tavernier struck his penalty brilliantly, tucking it right into the top corner. The Rangers skipper became a father this week, and this vital European goal was a fine way to mark the occasion.

Katai responded immediately for his side, rounding Allan McGregor and stroking the ball home. Once again he had started his run slightly too early though, and for the second time he had a goal disallowed for offside. 

A training ground special at a set-piece saw Rangers double their advantage. A short corner led to Ryan Jack floating a clever ball over for Alfredo Morelos to strike with a cracking half-volley. It was the sort of finish the Colombian has made his stock in trade, and he is usually good for a big strike on the European stage.

Belgrade’s standout performer was once again at the centre of things, when his journey into the home penalty box saw him brought down by Jack. In further evidence that it was just not his night, the striker’s penalty drew a phenomenal save from McGregor. The 40-year-old stopper got down low to his right to pound the ball away with a strong hand. 

The breathless end-to-end acton continued, and a brilliant combination down the left flank between Ryan Kent and Calvin Bassey carved out a chance for Glen Kamara, who shot over the bar. Ohi Omoijuanfo would then test the excellent McGregor once more, with the former Scotland goalkeeper reacting well from an awkward position.

Rangers almost put the game beyond all doubt at the start of the second half. Kamara advanced down the left with Morelos unmarked in a central area, but he slipped when trying to deliver the cross. It was a let-off for Red Star, particularly arriving so early in the half.

After scoring early in the first period, Rangers replicated the trick five minutes into the second. Tavernier arced an excellent corner in for Leon Balogun to rocket home with a header. A third set-piece goal of the night, there’s no prizes for guessing what manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has been working on with his team.

Against the run of play, El Fardou Ben Nabouhane forced yet another excellent stop from McGregor. The aging stopper has incurred some criticism this season, but performances like this demonstrate why he is such a special part of the history of this football club. The veteran was a brick wall at Ibrox tonight. 

Guelor Kanga did manage to put the ball past McGregor, the first player to do so on the night from an onside position, but his effort cannoned off the crossbar. Katai seized upon some confusion in the home box to draw yet another big save from McGregor, this time low to his right-hand post. 

Belgrade manager Dejan Stankovic smirked as his side had a third goal offside. This time El Fardou Ben was the unlucky player. The decision was the correct one, but you’d forgive the Red Star for feeling like nothing was going their way.

Red Star Belgrade would run out of time to put the ball in the Rangers net legally, and the Glasgow side will travel to Rajko Mitic Stadium in confident mood. They are unlikely to have it as easy as they did tonight, when they thoroughly outclassed the visitors. But they are firm favourites to advance to the last eight after this superb display.

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