RANGERS made it two wins out of two at Trophee Veolia tonight, defeating tough Ligue 1 side Nice 2-0.
A wonderful break ended with Jermain Defoe finishing to have Gers ahead at the interval before Jamie Barjonas netted deep into stoppage time which means the cup comes back to Glasgow with the Light Blues tonight.
From the XI which impressed against Lyon on Thursday night in a 2-0 win, Steven Gerrard named three changes.
Allan McGregor made his first appearance of pre-season, replacing Jon McLaughlin, while Glen Kamara came in for Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe started instead of Alfredo Morelos.
Nice, managed by Arsenal manager and former regular opponent of Gerrard, Patrick Viera, started with much of the ball early on, but Gers were close to the opening goal with their first attack on three minutes. Joe Aribo collected the ball on the edge of the area, turned and slipped it through for Jermian Defoe. While his shot was blocked superbly by goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale, the offside flag was up in any case.
Soon after there was concern for Allan McGregor, who was on the end of a clattering challenge from Brazil defender Dante as he attacked a ball in from the left. The Gers goalkeeper showed bravery to challenge the towering defender and get a strong punch on the ball before declaring himself fit to continue.
Connor Goldson then met a super Borna Barisic corner, heading just over, before Ianis Hagi had a goalbound shot deflected behind by a brilliant Remy Mestrellet block after lightning build-up play on the left between Barisic and Ryan Kent.
The heat here in Lyon tonight – with temperatures touching 30-degrees – meant the referee opted for a drinks break midway through the first-half, Rangers having been the better side prior to that.
And afterwards, it was again the Light Blues on the front-foot, with Cardinale making a good block from a 25-yard Hagi strike with the Romanian being alert to capitalise on some dallying as Nice attempted to play out down the right.
The goal, it seemed, would only fall one way, and on 40 minutes, it arrived for Rangers and what a beauty it was.
Rangers’ pressing game and ballwinning had been outstanding to that point, and they showed their prowess in that area once again, with Joe Aribo wonderfully winning the ball in the middle of the park with a crunching tackle before getting it on to Glen Kamara.
He took a look up and spotted Kent charging clear on the right, and he was joined by Defoe and Hagi through the middle.
Kent then picked out Defoe, and inside the box, he did what Jermain Defoe always does – he took the ball into feet and blasted it beyond Cardinale from 14-yards to hand Gers a deserved lead going into half time.
It was Gerrard’s side who again dominated proceedings at the start of the second half, although Alex Claude-Maurice wasted a good opening for Nice on 62 minutes, clipping an effort wide of Allan McGregor’s far left post from close range.
Just afterwards, the manager made his first substitutions of the evening, bringing Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy, Steven Davis, Scott Arfield and Calvin Bassey on for Jermain Defoe, Ianis Hagi, Glen Kamara, Ryan Jack and Borna Barisic.
George Edmundson made a great block on a Claude-Maurice strike, before Allan McGregor was called into action, really for the first time in the game, with a fine save to push away a Pierre Lees-Melou curling effort from distance.
Ryan Kent then showed more fabulous skill to nutmeg Lees-Melou, cut inside and unleash a fiery drive from 25-yards which Cardinale did well to push wide and then deny the incoming Murphy for the rebound.
McGregor was called into action again to deny Lees-Melou again as he popped up at the back-post, before Gerrard made a further two subs with 11 minutes to go - Jamie Barjonas and Greg Stewart coming on for Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent.
Connor Goldson came close to a stunning goal on 83 minutes with a brilliant backheel flick on the end of a Tavernier free-kick from the right which Cardinale did well to get down to. Glenn Middleton and Nathan Patterson followed soon after from the bench for Geroge Edmundson and James Tavernier, before Barjonas tested Cardinale with a 25-yard drive, the goalkeeper again holding on well.
Barjonas wasn’t to be denied, however. A quick Middleton throw in injury-time put the Academy man away down the left - he cut into the area and produced a top-class finish past the goalkeeper to set the seal on victory and bring to a close our time in France.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier (Patterson, 85), Goldson, Edmundson (Middleton, 85), Barisic (Bassey, 63); Jack (Arfield, 63), Kamara (Davis, 63), Aribo (Barjonas, 79); Hagi (Murphy, 63), Kent (Stewart, 79), Defoe (Morelos, 63).
SUBS NOT USED: Firth, Jones, Docherty, McCrorie, Mayo