Report: Sparta Prague 1-0 Rangers

RANGERS fell to defeat in the Europa League tonight, going down 1-0 at Sparta Prague.

David Hancko’s technology-awarded header on 29 minutes was the difference between the two sides in the Czech capital, with Gers still looking for their first points in Group A.

Manager Steven Gerrard named five changes to his side - from the team which won at Dundee on Saturday, in came Allan McGregor, Borna Barisic, Juninho Bacuna for a starting debut, Steven Davis and Fashion Jr.

They took the places of Jon McLaughlin, Connor Goldson, John Lundstram, Ianis Hagi and Alfredo Morelos.

That meant it was a back five of McGregor in goal with James Tavernier, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey and Barisic in front of him.

Bacuna and Davis came into the midfield next to Glen Kamara, while up front, Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe played in support of Fashion Jr.

Rangers began the match with a degree of control, albeit on what appeared to be a treacherous playing surface with so many players in blue losing their footing in the early minutes.

But on 10 minutes, the first big chance of the match fell the way of Sparta – Jakub Pesek getting the break of the ball on the turn on the 18-yard line as Gers made heavy weather of a clearance, but McGregor was in top form again to turn over his effort as it arrowed for the top corner.

Fashion Jr got his first chance to run in-behind on an Aribo ball soon after, but from a tight angle, he could only fire straight at goalkeeper Florin Nita.

Filip Panak did well to get a glancing Aribo header away, but Gers continued to dominate until being hit by a bit of a sucker punch on 29 minutes.

From a corner, David Hancko met the ball at the front post and glanced it across the face of goal, the ball hitting the far post and looping just over the line – goal line technology adjudging the ball to have crossed the line before McGregor could scoop it back out again.

Gers settled again to retake their dominant status in the game, but couldn’t force any further opportunities albeit they were dealt a blow with Bacuna being forced off with a knock and Ianis Hagi having to take his place prior to the break.

Sparta missed a glorious opportunity for number two almost straight from kick off in the second half – Adam Hlozek breaking clear and feeding Lukas Haraslin – and with McGregor stranded and facing an open goal, he fired his effort back off the bar from 12-yards.

At the other end, Fashion Jr had the ball in the net – blasting home the rebound from a Balogun header on the end of a Tavernier corner, but he scored from an offside position.

Gers’ possession was beginning to come in more advanced areas, but again the better opportunities were falling to the home side – Haraslin going through the middle but being denied by McGregor.

Hagi tested his international teammate Florin Nita with a decent effort from 25-yards, before on 76 minutes Glen Kamara was shown a second yellow card as the referee deemed him to have caught Michel Sacek with an arm.

It was harsh, and left Gers with an even greater task in what remained of the game.

Despite that, they continued to plug away and Fashion Jr had another opportunity in injury time, but was denied by Nita.

Sparta held on though to move onto four points, with Gers now facing a double-header with Brondby, the Danes sitting on a point following defeat to Lyon tonight.

RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Balogun, Bassey, Barisic, Bacuna (Hagi, 38), Davis, Kamara, Aribo (Lundstram, 77), Roofe (Morelos, 66), Fashion Jr.

SUBS NOT USED: McLaughlin, McCrorie, Patterson, Wright, Kelly, Arfield, McClelland.

SPARTA PRAHA: Nita, Celustka, Pavelka, Minchev (Drchal, 69), Sacek, Hlozek (Dockal, 90), Pesek, Haraslin, Panak, Wiesner, Hancko.

SUBS NOT USED: Heca, Kotek, Gabriel, Moberg Karlsson, Pulkrab, Stetina, Polidar, Vindheim, Karabec, Vitik.

REFEREE: Ali Palabiyik.