Rangers edged into the last 32 of the Europa League after a 1-1 draw against Young Boys, with a late equaliser and red card making for a nerve-wracking finish.
Steven Gerrard's side were looking to overcome their Scottish League Cup final disappointment and showed no ill-effects in the first half as they overran their opponents. Alfredo Morelos (30) scored his sixth group-stage goal but Rangers would have been disappointed not to add a few more to their tally.
Young Boys - who came from behind to win 2-1 in the reverse fixture - threatened to spring another surprise in the second half, with a scrambled Borna Barisic (89) own goal hauling the Swiss side level. It got worse for Rangers a few minutes later as Ryan Jack was sent off for a second yellow card (90+3).
But they managed to hold out for a draw, which was enough to see Rangers into the knockout stages for the first time since 2011, and finishing second behind Porto in Group G, who beat Feyenoord 3-2 in Portugal.
How Rangers did it the hard way
Rangers knew they had a job to do at Ibrox and went agonisingly close around the 20-minute mark. Some good build-up play saw Scott Arfield fire the ball goalwards, but it was deflected behind by Frederik Sorensen. Not long after, some more sensational Rangers football saw Joe Aribo slot the ball into the path of Morelos, but his strike from close range was pushed away by the feet of David von Ballmoos.
Rangers: McGregor (7), Tavernier (7), Goldson (7), Katic (7), Barisic (6), Jack (6), Kamara (7), Arfield (7), Aribo (7), Kent (6), Morelos (8).
Subs used: Ojo (6).
Young Boys: Von Ballmoos (7), Janko (6), Burgy (6), Sorensen (5), Garcia (6), Fassnacht (7), Aebischer (6), Martins Pereira (7), Ngamaleu (6), Assale (7), Nsame (6).
Subs used: Hoarau (6), Spielmann (6), Mambimbi (6).
Man of the match: Alfredo Morelos.
Rangers should have been awarded a penalty in the 22nd minute. Morelos continued to get the better of Sorensen, darting past him and into the area, with the Young Boys defender clipping at Morelos' heels and pulling him down. However, referee Felix Brych waved away the claims and with VAR unavailable, no review could be made.
The hosts finally made the breakthrough on the half an hour mark after some horrendous errors from Young Boys. Nicolas Burgy's poor initial pass allowed Ryan Kent to float the ball towards Morelos in the middle of the park. The Colombian's touch easily took the ball past Sorensen and he was then one-on-one with the goalkeeper, powering home into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the Europa League group stages which takes him to the top of the scoring charts.
- Rangers made one change from their previous game as Filip Helander dropped out of the matchday 18 and was replaced by Nikola Katic.
- Young Boys also made one change with Marvin Spielmann starting on the bench and Moumi Nicolas Ngamaleu coming into the side.
Rangers had three glorious chances to double their lead not long after. Von Ballmoos pushed away a stinging effort from Arfield before Aribo twice put the ball wide - one from a header and another with a misplaced shot. Young Boys also had their best effort of the game on the stroke of half-time, but Christian Fassnacht - who scored the late winner against Rangers in the reverse fixture - could only head Ulisses Garcia's fizzing cross over the bar.
Young Boys were much improved after the break. Allan McGregor was forced into his first save in the 65th minute as Saidy Janko whipped a great cross into the area. Fassnacht rose up again to head the ball goalwards, but the Rangers goalkeeper pushed it over the crossbar with his fingertips. Sorensen also went close from the resulting corner, but his header smacked off the back of Nikola Katic to send it wide.
For all of their second-half pressure, it was a scrambled own goal from Barisic that brought Young Boys level. Substitute Felix Mambimbi flew a cross in from the left and the Rangers defender sent the ball over the line with an outstretched foot, despite McGregor's best efforts to keep it out. Roger Assale and Fassnacht were both there to help send the ball further into the net, but it was not needed with Barisic already doing the damage.
Who could Rangers face in the last 32?
- Inter Milan
- Istanbul Basaksehir
- Manchester United
- Red Bull Salzburg
The frayed nerves of Rangers fans were worsened in the final minute of four added on when Jack saw red for a second yellow card. The first had been for pulling down Michel Aebischer just after the hour mark with Mambimbi caught late on for his second offence, and he will now be unavailable for the first knockout round fixture.
Man of the match - Alfredo Morelos
As usual, it was difficult to ignore the impact of Morelos up front. He was spellbinding in the first half, linking up brilliantly with Arfield and Aribo despite some poor finishing from his team-mates. The Colombian also gave Young Boys defender Sorensen a torrid time and he will not be forgetting Morelos any time soon.
He also took his goal brilliantly and when he is sent through on goal like he was, there is no mistaking the outcome. Morelos has now scored six goals in the Europa League this season, which is the joint-most a Gers player has scored in a major UEFA European campaign - also six for Jim Forrest in the 1964/65 European Cup.
The striker has certainly put to bed his personal demons from the Scottish League Cup defeat to Celtic and will be vital for Rangers as they prepare for the knockout stages, ending the group campaign as the top goal scorer.
Gerrard: No one gave us a chance
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard said: "It's a fantastic feeling, especially after the last few days. It's been tough to pick ourselves up, the players and the staff, for this game. The boys deserve credit for getting it done.
"It was a very good first half, we looked dangerous, created the best chances. Maybe if people would have been more bold and brave, we could have scored more. Young Boys turned the heat up on us in the second half, piled a lot of bodies forward and went direct.
"I can't criticise them boys [for the nerves getting to them]. There's not a high level of European experience in the group. But on the back of a cup final where we put everything into that game and had two days to recover, no-one should understate what they've done.
"No-one gave us a chance. I sat in the canteen with the players and squad when the draw was made. It's going to be very nice to see Rangers in the draw, among some elite teams around Europe. It was an aim and target when I came through the door, get respect back in European competitions. Fans live for this. Getting through gives the club a bit of kudos, for sure."
- Young Boys have won none of their last 13 away major European matches (D6 L7).
- In all competitions under Steven Gerrard, Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos has scored 56 goals - 35 more than any other player.
- This was only the second time in their last 18 home matches in all competitions that Rangers have failed to win (W16 D1 L1).
Next up for Rangers is a trip to Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 12pm). Young Boys will also play on the same day in the Swiss Super League, travelling to Lugano.
In terms of the Europa League, the draw for the last 32 takes place on Monday December 16 in Nyon, with proceedings set to start at 12pm, UK time.