RANGERS will take a 4-2 advantage into the second-leg of their UEFA Youth League tie with Septemvri Sofia after a strong performance in Bulgaria.
It was an entertaining game at the Slavia Stadium as Tony Weston and Cole McKinnon were both on the scoresheet for Rangers in the first-half as the game went in 2-2 at the break.
The Light Blues were back ahead after the interval as Weston got his second of the afternoon before the 18-year-old netted his hat-trick midway through the second-half.
Rangers lined-up with Jay Hogarth in goal and a back four of Adam Devine, Lewis MacKinnon, Leon King and Robbie Fraser.
Charlie Lindsay, Cole McKinnon and Murray Miller were in midfield, while Alex Lowry, Tony Weston and Ross McCausland made up the front-line.
There was a minute's silence held prior to kick-off in memory of the 46 people tragically killed in a bus crash in Bulgaria this week.
It was the hosts who had the first chance early in the match as Martin Stoychev tried a curling shot from distance but it drifted just over the bar.
Rangers were next to threaten as both sides looked to get a foothold on the game. Alex Lowry skipped into the Septemvri box before laying the ball off to Tony Weston. The striker spotted Cole McKinnon on the edge of the area but the midfielder’s shot was just high of the target.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Robbie Fraser broke down the left before finding Ross McCausland in the box. McCausland was crowded out by three Septemvri defenders as they looked to clear the danger but the ball broke for Tony Weston who curled a shot towards goal but goalkeeper Ivaylo Iliev was alert to turn it behind for a corner.
The young Gers were really settling into this match and came close to getting the opener just inside the first 20 minutes.
Ross McCausland played a lovely ball through the Septemvri defence and into the path of Tony Weston who was through on goal but his shot was blocked well by Ivaylo Iliev.
However, just a few minutes later they got the breakthrough in Sofia. Adam Devine delivered an inviting cross from the right which met Tony Weston in the box. His initial shot from close range was blocked well by the goalkeeper but the striker made no mistake in turning the rebound into the back of the net.
It was a lively start and the Gers were unable to hold on to their advantage as the Bulgarians drew level just three minutes later. A ball over the top sent Simeon Alexandrov driving towards the Rangers goal and he fired a left footed shot beyond Jay Hogarth and into the back of the net.
On the half-hour mark, it was the visitors who took the lead as Stoyan Stoichov’s free-kick was met by the head of Martin Stoychev who flicked the ball into the back of the net.
In the dying stages of the first-half, Rangers were level as Adam Devine found Cole McKinnon in the box and the midfielder fired a powerful shot beyond Iliev.
After the break, it was a strong start from the Gers as they regained their lead in the 50th minute. It was one again Adam Devine who provided the ball from the right, which Weston met at the back post to slot home.
Rangers were taking control of the match in Sofia, as Alex Lowry’s shot from distance was deflected just wide.
From the resulting corner, the Young Gers had their fourth of the afternoon as Tony Weston netted his hat-trick as he managed to bundle the ball home from close range.
The visitors were still looking to add to their tally as Tony Weston and Chris McKee both saw efforts saved by Iliev.
Both sides now look to the second-leg in Scotland on December 7.
RANGERS: Hogarth, Devine, Fraser, King (Allen, 60), MacKinnon, Miller, Lowry (Allan, 73), McKinnon, Weston (Wilson, 85), Lindsay (McKee, 73), McCausland (Lyall, 85).
Subs: Budinauckas, Ure.
Septemvri Sofia: Iliev, Stoykov (Dokanin, 65), Tsvetanov, Filipov, Ivanov, Stolchkov, Paskov, Kolev, Stoychev, Mihaylov (Shopov, 65), Alexandrov.
Subs: Ivanov, Piralkov, Delkov, Kolev, Valchinov.
Referee: Nathan Verboomen (BEL)
A subscription to RangersTV starts from just £6 per month, and provides not only exclusive access to the club’s teams, but also original feature videos and documentaries, our incredibly popular Inside Ibrox and Away Days shows and our extensive archive of match action from through the years.
MyGers members will also be awarded 25 points for purchasing an annual standard subscription, and 40 for an annual unlimited subscription.
Every MyGers membership contributes to the success of the first team as MyGers membership revenue goes directly towards the first team investment.