RANGERS have qualified for the Europa League group stages for a fourth consecutive season after a 0-0 draw in stifling hot Yerevan against Alashkert tonight.
Following a 1-0 win over the Armenians at Ibrox last Thursday, Gers certainly had opportunities to make this a more comfortable evening tonight, but regardless, they are through to tomorrow’s midday draw.
Despite the well-documented issues going into this one, the Light Blues had nine full international players in their starting XI, and from the side which defeated Ross County on Sunday, it was five changes with Robby McCrorie making his competitive debut in goal with Nathan Patterson, Filip Helander, Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield also coming in.
That meant it was a back five of McCrorie, Patterson, skipper for the evening Connor Goldson, Helander and Barisic.
Arfield came into midfield next to Steven Davis and Glen Kamara, while up front, Joe Aribo and Ianis Hagi supported Alfredo Morelos.
It was Gers who began on the front foot with Goldson heading a Davis corner wide while Morelos tested goalkeeper Ognjen Cancarevic from 25-yards.
Morelos then has a superb chance to put Gers in front of the night, being played in by Arfield after he made a super interception high up the pitch, but the Colombian fired over from just inside the area.
Cancarevic made a fine save to deny Aribo with a curling effort from the edge of the 18-yard box while Helander headed over from a Barisic corner.
Morelos then went one-on-one with Cancarevic following a super through-ball from Arfield, but again the goalkeeper came out on top.
Alashkert were offering nothing going forward in the first half – and on one of their only forays forward, attacker James Santos picked up a second yellow card for ludicrously catching McCrorie on the head with his boot as the goalkeeper slid out to collect a loose ball.
The possession Gers were enjoying increased even more following the red card, and Goldson came close with a wicked 25-yard drive which was just a whisker over.
Arfield then couldn’t get enough on a shot when the ball broke to him on the edge of the area, and 0-0 is how it remained at the interval.
Hagi couldn’t turn home a back-post Davis cross as Gers again began the second half on top, while Arfield had one blocked on the line from a Barisic cross.
McCrorie saved well from Jose Embalo, while sub Cedric Itten fired into the side netting on the end of a drilled Barisic ball.
Morelos then fired over at the back post on the end of an outstanding Patterson cross, though he may have been better going for a header.
Cancarevic made another super stop, this time from a 25-yard Morelos piledriver, and then in the last of five minutes of added time, Joe Aribo saw an effort come back off the crossbar from 20-yards.
At no time were the visitors under any real pressure, and the clean sheet to see them into tomorrow’s draw was thoroughly merited on the night.
RANGERS: McCrorie, Patterson, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Arfield, Davis, Kamara, Aribo, Morelos, Hagi (Itten, 64).
SUBS NOT USED: Hogarth, Balogun, Kelly, Lowry, Lyall, McKinnon, McClelland.
ALASHKERT: Cancarevic, Voskanyan, Cameta, Kryuchkov, Boljevic, Hovsepyan, Khurtsidze (Fofana, 87), Grigoryan (Gome, 74), Glisic (Tankov, 61), Embalo (Ashekyan, 87), James.
SUBS NOT USED: Dosa, Yurchenko, Batista, Bezecourt.
REFEREE: Tobias Stieler (GER)
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