Rangers 3-2 Standard Liege: Scott Arfield completes comeback win as hosts reach Europa League last 32

Match report as Rangers qualify from Europa League Group D and reach knockout stages; Scott Arfield scores match winner at Ibrox to defeat Standard Liege as hosts twice come from behind to earn victory

Scott Arfield celebrates putting Rangers in front against Standard Liege
Image: Scott Arfield celebrates putting Rangers in front against Standard Liege

Rangers qualified for the Europa League knockout stages with a game to spare as Scott Arfield's strike sealed an entertaining 3-2 win over Standard Liege at Ibrox.

The Belgian visitors, needing a win to keep their hopes of reaching the round of 32 alive, took an early lead as Maxime Lestienne finished from close range (6) before Connor Goldson's firm header restored parity (39).

But within a minute, Duje Cop bravely poked Liege back in front, colliding painfully with the far post in the process.

Rangers showed their resolve as they levelled for a second time before the break when James Tavernier converted his ninth penalty of the season (45+1), and Arfield met Ryan Kent's cross in the second-half to complete the turnaround (63).

The result means Rangers remain top of Group D on 11 points, level with second-placed Benfica heading into next Thursday's final round of fixtures.

Maxime Lestienne beats Rangers Allan McGregor to make it 1-0
Image: Maxime Lestienne beats Rangers Allan McGregor to make it 1-0

Player ratings

Rangers: McGregor (7), Tavernier (7), Goldson (7), Balogun (6), Barisic (6), Kamara (7), Davis (8), Arfield (9), Roofe (6), Morelos (6), Kent (7).

Subs: Bassey (n/a), Itten (n/a), Zungu (n/a), Aribo (6).

Standard Liege: Bodart (8), Dussene (6), Bokadi (6), Laifis (6), Fai (7), Jans (6), Shamir (6), Bastien (6), Lestienne (7), Tapsoba (7), Cop (7).

Subs: Gavory (n/a), Avenatti (n/a), Raskin (n/a), Balikwisha (6).

Man of the match: Scott Arfield.

How Rangers reached the round of 32

Rangers went into the contest unbeaten after two wins and two draws from their four previous games, while Liege only secured their first points of this season's Europa League campaign when they overcame Lech Poznan 2-1 last week despite the sending off of striker Obbi Oulare.

But the visitors made the better and were ahead after just six minutes. Allan McGregor had previously kept 37 European clean sheets but there was to be no shut-out this time.
Laurent Jans' first-time ball took Tavernier out of the picture before Goldson's hesitancy allowed Cop to fire a cross to the front post, where Lestienne darted across Barisic to prod home.

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Rangers were lacking in aggression but did finally hit back after 39 minutes as Goldson peeled off Merveille Bokadi to meet Barisic's corner, powering a fine header back across Bodart for the equaliser.

The parity was restored for 46 seconds, however. Glen Kamara failed to get out quickly enough to stop Collins Fai collecting a free-kick and his cross was allowed to bounce all the way to the back post where Cop bundled home.

But the frenetic finish to the first half saw Gers level again on the stroke of half-time as Tavernier fired home his 15th goal of the season from the penalty spot.

Duje Cop collides with the post as he restores Standard's advantage
Image: Duje Cop collides with the post as he restores Standard's advantage

Referee Bojan Pandzic missed Lestienne using a hand to block Kemar Roofe's strike but when alerted to the offence he pointed to the spot, and Tavernier made no mistake to send the teams in level at 2-2 at the break.

Standard were bright once more following the restart, as their manager Philippe Montanier had promised they would be throughout this absorbing contest. Roofe was in the right place to hook clear Abdoul Tapsoba's header from substitute Michel-Ange Balikwisha's corner.

Team news

Gerrard picked the same starting line-up that secured a 2-2 draw against Benfica last week. Jack had still not recovered from injury, meaning that Davis continued in a midfield three. McGregor made a club record 83rd European appearance for the Light Blues.

Standard Liege made four changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Anderlecht at the weekend. Shamir, Jans, Tapsoba and Cop came into the starting XI in a 3-5-2 formation. Raskin and Balikwisha dropped to the bench while Cimirot missed out.

The Scottish Premiership leaders were certainly not out of the woods as Standard hunted the ball down with a fervent hunger. McGregor flapped at a corner but looked more assured as he blocked Tapsoba's strike from Lestienne's fine pass. It would prove a decisive moment.

James Tavernier is congratulated after hauling Rangers level at 2-2
Image: James Tavernier is congratulated after hauling Rangers level at 2-2

Having survived that period of pressure, Gerrard's team grew in strength and snatched the lead after 63 minutes. Kamara picked his moment to slide Kent in behind with a reverse pass.

The winger could have flashed across the six-yard box for the marked Morelos but wisely chose to pull back for Arfield, who coolly slotted home the third.

Standard suddenly looked beaten as Bodart produced a stunning save to deny Borna Barisic's pinpoint free-kick before smothering at the feet of Roofe, but it was job done for Rangers and progression from the group stages in back-to-back seasons in major European competition for the first time since 2007.

Gerrard hails improved Rangers

Steven Gerrard shows his delight at the final whistle against Standard Liege
Image: Steven Gerrard shows his delight at the final whistle against Standard Liege

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard: "It was certainly a stiff test. That's for sure. Standard Liege are a fantastic team with real dangerous players. They caused us real problems during the first half and we had to tweak certain things at half-time.

"We asked for a bit more in certain areas and I thought our second-half performance was much better. Over the course of the 90 minutes I thought we just deserved this result.

"We showed amazing character to come back into the game in the way we did. I've been delighted with that attitude all season. All the tests we've had we've stood up.

"The game was finely set at half-time and it was about who was going to come out and really take this game and show they wanted it more. We really looked like a proper Rangers team in the second half."

Man of the match - Scott Arfield

Arfield wheels away in delight after his winning strike on 63 minutes
Image: Arfield wheels away in delight after his winning strike on 63 minutes

Rangers are now unbeaten in 24 games this season - and this was a crucial win for Scotland, too. Arfield's strike ensured they held onto 11th place in the UEFA coefficient ranking - the last position that could earn a direct place in the Champions League for the domestic champions.

Arfield continued his fine recent form to meet Kent's cross with a well-taken finish which means Rangers only need to match Benfica's result in Poland next week to top the group. Arfield was full of industry, and might have scored a second when he collected Borna Barisic's pass to force Arnaud Bodart into action.

Fortress Ibrox - Opta stats

  • Rangers have lost just one of their last 22 home matches in European competition, including qualifiers (W15 D6).
  • Standard Liège have lost four of their five UEFA Europa League group stage matches this season - they had only lost four of their previous 16 in the group stage in the competition (W6 D6 L4).
  • Rangers conceded first in a home game for the first time this season in all competitions, in their 12th home match at Ibrox in 2020/21. It was the first time they'd conceded first in a home game since March, when they did so against Bayer Leverkusen (lost 1-3).
  • 12 of the last 15 goals Rangers have conceded in all competitions have been in European matches - eight of the 11 the Gers have conceded this season have been in European encounters.

What's next?

Live SPFL

Rangers travel to face Ross County in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football; coverage starts at 11am with kick-off at 12pm. They finish their Europa League group stage campaign away to Lech Poznan next Thursday; kick-off 5.55pm.

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