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October 19, 2018
Rangers 3-1 Rapid Vienna: Rapid response sends Rangers top of group
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Rangers 3-1 Rapid Vienna: Rapid response sends Rangers top of group

Alfredo Morelos (second right) scored twice and won the penalty for Rangers’ second

Rangers moved top of Europa League Group G as they came from behind to claim a deserved win over Rapid Vienna.

Veton Berisha broke the deadlock to give the Austrians the lead at Ibrox, but it was short-lived with Alfredo Morelos replying instantly.

Rangers’ second came with just six minutes to play as Morelos was brought down in the box, James Tavernier scoring from the spot.

And Morelos finished the game off with a smart counter attack at the death.

With Villarreal drawing 3-3 away to Spartak Moscow, Rangers have the advantage ahead of their double-header with the Russians.

It means Steven Gerrard’s side are still unbeaten in Europe this season.

Rangers rewarded for patience

The home side started brightly, dominating possession without offering a real cutting edge. And it was Rapid Vienna who produced the best chance of the opening half an hour when Andrija Pavlovic got between the two centre-backs and bulleted a header just past the far post.

It had not been a lively first half, but as the half-time whistle edged closer suddenly the game sparked into life.

Andrei Ivan collected the ball on the right hand side. Despite looking offside the flag stayed down, and his cut-back was slid into the path of Berisha by Rangers defender Soulimane Coulibaly, leaving the Rapid forward with an easy finish.

But within a minute Rangers were level. Tavernier collected the ball out wide and drove it perfectly into the path of Morelos who made no mistake from the centre of the box.

Initially the second half was much of the same. Rangers kept the ball, but the incisive passing was missing. The visitors always looked a threat on the break, but were not making enough to seriously trouble the Ibrox men.

But as the half wore on Rangers began to exert more pressure on the visitors. On-loan Liverpool man Ryan Kent was proving hard to contain, while Tavenier, Daniel Candeias and Morelos began to find more joy.

Kent drove into the box only for his cut-back to find white and green shirts, but minutes later he skipped through the defence on the other wing, drew the foul, and Tavernier’s free-kick had to be headed away for a corner under pressure.

Rapid goalkeeper Richard Strebinger’s one-handed saved denied Ovie Ejaria’s diving header. Then Morelos broke free on the right but was too keen to get a cross in when an extra touch would have allowed more blue shirts to get into the box.

Something had to give though and when Morelos drove into the box, Mario Sonnleitner scythed him down. Tavernier made it five successful penalties from five attempts this season, rocketing the ball into the top corner.

Then as Rapid threw men forward, Rangers broke on the counter attack, and Candeias’ backheel from the halfway line was pounced on by Morelos who made no mistake, finishing beyond Strebinger.

Comfortable in Europe – analysis

This was a different Rangers than the one that had struggled to impose themselves away to Livingston.

The Europa League has brought the best out of Gerrard’s side this season. They look comfortable at this level, and for long spells against Rapid Vienna they were patient up front, refusing to panic as the clock ticked by without the lead they craved.

At the back Rapid were restricted to little, only twice breaking through, and even then the second occasion was a more than debatable offside call.

Rangers were knocking the ball about well, but they found their main success when they drove at the Austrians and it was Morelos’ run that earned them the decisive penalty.

Sitting top of Group G after two games, there is now more than just an outside chance of qualifying through the section and into the knockout stages.

Source BBC News

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