Rangers booked their spot in the last 16 of the Europa League after another crazy clash with Royal Antwerp saw them run out 5-2 winners on the night (9-5 on aggregate).
Steven Gerrard's team never looked like heading out of the competition at Ibrox but were made to work hard by Antwerp, who proved a thorn in their side throughout the 180 minutes on Thursday.
Nathan Patterson (46) and Ryan Kent (55) looked to have put the tie to bed after Alfredo Morelos' opener (9) was cancelled out by Lior Refaelov (31) in the first half.
However, a mix-up between Conor Goldson and Allan McGregor saw Didier Lamkel Ze pull a goal back for the Belgians barely 90 seconds after Kent had netted the hosts' third.
Borna Barisic's 79th-minute penalty - his third of the tie from the spot - put the result beyond any doubt before he handed the spot-kick duties over to Cedric Itten in stoppage-time to round off an exhilarating match.
Rangers: McGregor 6, Balogun 5, Goldson 5, Helander 6, Barisic 6, Davis 7, Kamara 7, Aribo 6, Kent 8, Hagi 7, Morelos 8
Subs: Patterson 7, Arfield 6, Wright N/A, Zungu N/A, Itten N/A
Antwerp: De Wolf 6, Buta 5, Gelin 6, Le Marchand 4, Lukaku 7, Hongla 6, Verstraete 6, De Laet 5, Gerkens 6, Refaelov 7, Lamkel Ze 6
Subs: Boya 6, Avenatti 6, Ampomah, 5, Miyoshi 6
Man of the match: Morelos
How ruthless Rangers filled their boots
The opening 10 minutes gave a taste of what was to come as Kent went close twice before setting up the opener. Ianis Hagi's energetic pressing allowed Kent to pick off a loose pass on the corner of the box and as he was closed down by keeper Ortwin De Wolf, Kent calmly looked up to spot Morelos. He picked out the Colombian near the penalty spot and the ball was swept home with ease.
When Hagi opted to fire in a high shot at the near post rather than firing in a low drive across goal with Morelos lurking, it didn't appear that De Wolf's save would prove important so quickly. Rangers were dominant.
Antwerp came back into the game though and Ulineia Buta volleyed wide from a Lukaku cross before the wing-back's next delivery put the ball on a plate for Refaelov. He twisted and turned to beat Leon Balogun and saw his low cross guided into the far corner by the alert Refealov.
And it was Antwerp who went closest to taking the lead before the break as the excellent Lukaku beat Balogun again. This time, his effort found the side-netting as he tried to squeeze it in at Allan McGregor's near post.
Patterson has endured plenty of criticism after breaking Covid-19 protocols to attend a party alongside four of his Rangers teammates but he marked his return to the pitch in style. Brought on at the break, he drove into the area and smashed a low finish into the bottom corner to restore the Gers' lead just 19 seconds into the second half.
- Rangers made one enforced change as the injured Ryan Jack was replaced by Glen Kamara in the middle of the park. Bongani Zungu, Nathan Patterson and Calvin Bassey all returned to the bench after breaking Covid protocols and receiving a stern telling-off from Gerrard.
- Royal Antwerp brought in keeper Ortwin De Wolf for his debut while Jeremy Gelin, Birgir Verstraete and Didier Lamkel Ze all came into the side as they made four changes to the team who lost to Rangers last week.
It looked like the tie was done and dusted when Kent got in on the action 10 minutes later, guiding the ball into the back of the net from Morelos' cross after the striker had beaten his man down the right but a mix up between Goldson and McGregor allowed the sharp Lamkel Ze to nip in between them and tap the ball into an empty net shortly after.
Unsurprisingly, the action was not done there, and it was that man Morelos at the heart of it again. This time, he was hauled to the ground after turning Maxime Le Marchand inside the box and Polish referee Pawel Raczkowski pointed straight to the spot.
Barisic made no mistake from 12 yards and showed the spirit in this Rangers side as he allowed Cedric Itten to take the Gers' fourth penalty of the tie in the 92nd minute after Scott Wright was tripped up.
It was a ruthless attacking display from Gerrard's side but they will know they need to improve defensively against whoever they are drawn against in the last 16.
Goal hungry Rangers book last 16 spot - match stats
- Rangers have won each of their last four games in the UEFA Europa League - their best winning run in major European competition (excluding qualifiers) since they won five on the bounce in March 1969 in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
- Despite scoring exactly twice in all three visits, Royal Antwerp have lost all three of their away games against Scottish clubs in European competition, conceding 15 goals in the process.
- Rangers 9-5 Royal Antwerp is the highest-scoring two-legged tie in the UEFA Cup/Europa League since Helsingborgs 8-6 Heerenveen in the 2007-08 first round.
- Rangers have won 19 of their 20 home games in all competitions this season (D1), scoring 57 and conceding just nine goals in the process.
- Alfredo Morelos has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last seven appearances in all competitions for Rangers, scoring five and assisting six.
- Alfredo Morelos was the first player to assist 2+ goals in back-to-back UEFA Europa League knockout stage games since Diego did so for Atlético de Madrid in April 2012.
- Ryan Kent's assist for Alfredo Morelos' opener was his ninth of the season for Rangers in all competitions - as many as he provided in both 2018-19 (6) and 2019-20 (3) combined. He also scored his 10th goal of the season, the first time he has reached double figures in a campaign in all competitions in his professional career.
- Borna Barisic is only the second player to score three penalties against a single opponent in a UEFA Europa League season, after Aritz Aduriz v Genk in 2016-17.
- Aged 19 years and 132 days, Nathan Patterson was the youngest player to score as a substitute in a major European competition for Rangers (excluding qualifiers) since Ross McCormack v Porto in the Champions League in November 2005 (19y 97d).
- Lior Refaelov has been directly involved in 69% of Royal Antwerp's 13 UEFA Europa League goals this season (five goals, four assists), scoring (two) or assisting (three) all five of their goals in the last 32 tie against Rangers.
What the manager said:
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard: "I'm very satisfied, the performance was outstanding in a lot of areas. Some of our play was outstanding, the first three were top high-level goals. But, as a perfectionist, we still have to look at the areas we went wrong in tonight.
"It was probably Alfredo's best performance of the season. He likes this competition. I wouldn't have liked to have marked him, that's for sure. Physicality is a big strength of his. It was a performance off all-round quality."
Man of the match - Alfredo Morelos
Alfredo Morelos only scored one of Rangers nine goals in the tie but his fingerprints were all over their performances - especially at Ibrox.
After sweeping home the opener, Morelos turned into chief provider as he set up the following two. The first was a neat flick for Patterson, the second showed his skills and pace as he beat his man comfortably, before picking out the run of Kent in the box.
He was hungry for more although he didn't get a chance to add to his tally, Le Marchand had no answer to his quick feet and strength when he turned him in the box.
Defenders struggle to cope with the Colombian when he is in this mood and there is not a single side in the last-16 draw who will want to come up against Rangers' star man.
The draw will take place on Friday, February 26 in Nyon's House of European Football at 12pm UK time. You will be able to follow it across Sky Sports' digital platforms.
Europa League 20/21: Key dates
- March 11 & 18: Round of 16
- April 8 & 15: Quarter-finals
- April 29 & May 6: Semi-finals
- May 26: Final (Gdansk, Poland)
Rangers are not in action until next Wednesday night, when they travel to Livingston for a 6pm kick-off at The Tony Macaroni Arena.