Rangers vs Slavia Prague. UEFA Europa League Round of 16.
Report as Rangers lose 2-0 at home to Slavia Prague to exit Europe; home side also have Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun sent off in second half; Roofe racially abused on social media after defeat; Steven Gerrard says Glen Kamara claimed he was racially abused by Slavia player during game
Friday 19 March 2021 07:07, UK
Nine-man Rangers crashed out of the Europa League after a 2-0 home loss to Slavia Prague, exiting Europe's second-tier competition 1-3 on aggregate.
Steven Gerrard's side may have held a slight advantage after drawing the first leg 1-1 in the Czech capital last week, that is until Peter Olayinka headed the visitors ahead after 17 minutes.
Rangers' task was then made even harder when substitute Kemar Roofe was shown a straight red card minutes after coming on for a high boot on Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar, who was stretched off just past the hour-mark.
When Leon Balogun was also sent off with 17 minutes to go after picking up a second yellow card, with Nicolae Stanciu immediately pushing the hosts even further by converting the resulting free-kick, Rangers knew the game was up.
Rangers: McGregor (6), Patterson (7), Goldson (6), Balogun (6), Barisic (7), Kamara (6), Davis (6), Arfield (6), Aribo (6), Kent (7), Morelos (6)
Subs: Itten (6), Zungu (6), Wright (6), Roofe (6), Simpson (6)
Slavia Prague: Kolar (6), Kudela (6), Deli (6), Boril (6), Bah (6), Stanciu (8), Hromada (6), Dorley (7), Sima (9), Olayinka (8), Provod (7)
Subs: Holes (6), Kuchta (6), Masopust (6), Lingr (6), Vagner (6)
Man of the match: Abdallah Sima
As the game kicked off… a series of enormous explosions could be heard that lasted more than two minutes, as Rangers supporters gathered outside Ibrox - despite pleas from the club and authorities to stay at home - let off fireworks.
It did not affect the early flow of the game which began at pace, with Ryan Kent threatening on the edge of the box before his cross was cleared; Slavia then broke and Balogun made a last-ditch clearance off his own line to prevent the visitors going in front.
Slavia had beaten Leicester City in the last 32 by impressively dismantling their opponents at the King Power Stadium, and did not seem to be perturbed by Rangers' impressive European record under Gerrard of just five defeats in 44 matches.
They continued to push forward and were rewarded after 13 minutes, as Olayinka powered in a header from Jan Boril's cross at the near post, despite Allan McGregor's best efforts to get a hand on it.
Rangers responded immediately, as Kent's dipping low shot was well saved low down by Ondrej Kolar. Yet at times they seemed half a step slower than their confident opponents who, like Rangers, were unbeaten in their domestic league and had lost just three times in all competitions so far this season.
Kent was Rangers best source of promise. The winger drove repeatedly at the Slavia defence; one jinking run was crudely halted by Kudela, who was deservedly booked, but the set piece was wasted.
Glen Kamara was then cautioned after colliding with Alexander Bah, though the Dane's exaggerated response made the challenge appear worse than it actually was. It meant Kamara would miss the first leg of the quarter-final if his team progressed, but they were showing few signs of levelling the tie.
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Slavia Prague last Thursday, with Leon Balogun and Scott Arfield replacing Filip Helander and Ianis Hagi, who both dropped to the bench.
Alfredo Morelos had been quiet, but spun on the edge of the area and whipped a shot just wide of the far post on 42 minutes. It was as close as Rangers had come to an equaliser, but they then had a huge fright in first-half stoppage time.
Balogun dithered in the left-back area and was robbed by Abdallah Sima who strode into the box, but as the pair closed on goal the defender somehow managed to get a leg on the ball to swipe it clear, as Slavia appealed in vain for a penalty.
Rangers needed urgent inspiration, and Roofe was introduced soon after half-time for Scott Arfield - but he lasted just seven minutes.
Chasing a long ball as Kolar advanced from goal, Roofe raised his foot high to get a touch, but his follow through clattered into the goalkeeper's face leaving him senseless. The red card for endangering the opponent was inevitable, and Kolar was stretchered off as Roofe trudged ruefully down the tunnel.
Following the game, Roofe was subjected to racist abuse on the social media platform Instagram. The comments were made in the form of emojis on a post Roofe published in the wake of his sending-off.
Sky Sports News has contacted Instagram for a comment relating to the posts.
For Rangers, it now required a herculean effort to salvage this tie, and Nathan Patterson tried his best with a weaving run, though his shot was too high. The young full-back then needed to be perfect as the last man to deny Bah, as he threatened to put the game out of Rangers' reach.
Any hopes Rangers had left were quickly extinguished minutes later. First Balogun, who had been booked in the first half, was shown a second yellow card for a blunt challenge on substitute Lukas Masopust. From the resulting free-kick, Stanciu's magnificent curling shot beat McGregor all ends up, leaving Rangers needing three goals in 16 minutes with nine men.
Slavia were hungry for more goals, and Kamara was forced to clear at the back post to prevent Sima tapping in a third.
There were then chaotic scenes as Ondrej Kudela appeared to spark an angry reaction from Kamara, Bongani Zungu and Connor Goldson, who was booked along with Kudela in the aftermath. It was a suitably unsavoury way to end an evening that had promised much, but rapidly turned sour for Rangers.
In his post-match interview, Gerrard said Kamara claimed he was racially abused by a Slavia Prague player in the late stages of the game and urged UEFA to investigate the incident.
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard: "Glen Kamara to me is one of my own. I 100 per cent believe what he is saying in terms of the accusation.
"Other players around him heard it so I will stand toe-to-toe with Glen Kamara and I'll deal with this however Glen wants to deal with it.
"I am proud of all my players, tonight showing solidarity and from the top of this club to the bottom we stand with the players. This situation is over to UEFA now. I just hope it doesn't get brushed under the carpet.
"I feel angry. It's extremely disappointing. There is too much of it happening around football.
"Something needs to happen quickly. That is above me.
"UEFA will take this upon them I'm sure they will speak to both players and we will let other people deal with it. All I can confirm is that my player tells me he was racially abused."
The forward helped knock Leicester City out in the previous round by scoring his side's second goal at the King Power that night and while he was not on target at Ibrox, he still ran the show.
According to some reports, Slavia have turned down some large sums from some of Europe's biggest clubs for the Senegalese and judging by his impressive display in Glasgow, you can understand why.
The forward, 19, was a constant threat to the Rangers defence all night long and was particularly unlucky not to earn the visitors a penalty in first-half stoppage time after one of his customary solo dribbles.
Not that it really mattered come full time and whoever draws the Czechs in the last eight will need to keep a close eye on this exciting youngster.
Rangers take on Old Firm rivals Celtic at Parkhead on Sunday at noon in a match you can see live on Sky Sports Football.