Rangers 0-0 Spartak Moscow: Hosts held in Europa League Group G clash
By Charles Paterson at Ibrox
Last Updated: 26/10/18 2:54pm
Rangers were held to a scoreless draw by a battling Spartak Moscow, but remained top of their Europa League group on a frustrating night at Ibrox.
Lassana Coulibaly had the game's clearest opportunity, but the midfielder failed to connect when Morelos' cross arrived in front of him in the six-yard box on 67 minutes. Substitute Eros Grezda fired over with the goal gaping in the fourth minute of stoppage time, as Rangers failed to snatch the points at the death.
In a tense, sometimes ill-tempered affair on a windswept night in Glasgow, Rangers controlled possession for long periods, but didn't cause Aleksander Maksimenko enough problems in the Spartak goal, while the Russians came close to an unlikely win through Nikolai Rasskazov's long-range shot.
Rangers: McGregor (6), Tavernier (8), Worrall (7), Goldson (6), Flanagan (6), Ejaria (7), Jack (6), Coulibaly (6), Candeias (7), Morelos (8), Kent (9)
Subs: Greza (7), Middleton (6)
Away Team: Maksimenko (7), Rasskazov (6), Bocchetti (6), Dzhikija (7), Melgarejo (7), Ignatov (6), Fernando (7), Zobnin (6), Lomovitskiy (6), Ze Luis (6), Tashaev (6)
Subs: Eremenko (6), Hanni (8), Popov (6)
Man of the match: Ryan Kent
The point extended Rangers' unbeaten European run this season to 11 matches, but Steven Gerrard will feel this was a missed opportunity to take a giant step towards qualification for the knockout stages. For their second Europa League match in succession, Rangers hosted a manager-less team in apparent crisis, but this time they couldn't take advantage.
Spartak were languishing in seventh place in the Russian Premier League, form that had cost Massimo Carrera his job as manager earlier in the week. They arrived in Glasgow without seven first-team regulars, with caretaker Raul Riancho suggesting Monday's league game against Rubin Kazan was a bigger priority. Any suggestion that a weakened team would shrink in the deafening Ibrox atmosphere was dispelled early on, as they quickly settled into a rhythm and disrupted Rangers' early momentum.
There wasn't a clear opening until the 23rd minute, when Kent found Morelos, who fed Candeias in the inside left channel. Suddenly the Portuguese winger was free with a clear sight of goal, but instead of shooting he looked for the unmarked Coulibaly at the back post; the cross was over-hit and the chance lost.
That sparked Rangers into life, and Maksimenko was soon scrambling at his near post to punch Candeias' low cross away, after Kent had again caused problems to the Spartak defence. The on-loan Liverpool winger was Rangers' most productive source; the Russians soon saw this and began doubling up on him.
Rangers made three changes from the weekend win over Hamilton, with Joe Worrall, Jon Flanagan and Ryan Jack replacing Nikola Katic, Andy Halliday and Jordan Rossiter respectively.
Spartak Moscow were without seven first-team regulars, including club captain Denis Glushakov and Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano.
A blue wave of pressure bore down on the Spartak goal towards half-time; in response they resorted to brute force. Lomovitski was fortunate not to be booked for a foul on Morelos, before Fernando was yellow-carded - and perhaps could have seen red - after chopping down Candeias from behind.
Spartak made two changes in midfield at half-time, which nearly paid off immediately. First, Coulibaly lost possession on the edge of the area, but Fernando's shot was deflected wide; Zobnin then crossed from the left for the unmarked replacement Hanni, but he misdirected his flick away from McGregor's goal.
Sensing a change in momentum, Rangers drew breath and upped the tempo. Candeias' cross was punched clear by Maksimenko to Morelos, whose shot was blocked by Dzhikiya. Morelos then swept a tremendous cross across the six-yard box to where Coulibaly was all alone, but the midfielder inexplicably hesitated, and the ball was gone.
Morelos was becoming a growing menace to Spartak. On 70 minutes he wriggled into the box and got a shot away that Maksimenko spilled at the feet of Grezda, but the Albanian was slow to react and the goalkeeper managed to flick the ball away under pressure.
Spartak still carried an attacking threat, and on 76 minutes Rasskazov's angled shot had McGregor watching on anxiously as it flashed inches wide. Moments later Gerrard and the Rangers bench were screaming for a penalty as Grezda went down in the box, but referee Kevin Blom waved play on.
Four minutes of stoppage time produced one final opportunity; Kent cut the ball back for Grezda who had a clear sight of goal, but with glory beckoning he shot narrowly over from 15 yards, and the final whistle blew immediately. It summed up Rangers' night, but they will travel to Moscow in two weeks' time with their European fate still very much in their own hands.
- Rangers are unbeaten in all 11 of their European games under manager Steven Gerrard, winning five and drawing six
- Spartak have won just one of their last 15 away games (D6 L8) in European competition
- Spartak didn't attempt a single shot or have a touch in the Rangers' box in the opening half of this match
- The Russian side didn't attempt a shot on target against Rangers until the 70th minute, through Sofiane Hanni
Man of the Match - Ryan Kent
The winger showed once again just why Steven Gerrard was so keen to take him on loan from Liverpool for this season with another eye-catching display at Ibrox.
The 21-year-old was a bundle of energy down the left for Rangers and came desperately close to creating a late winner for the home side, only for substitute Eros Grezda's shot to be tipped over.
Rangers take on Aberdeen in the League Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park on Sunday, with the game getting underway at 4.30pm.