Glasgow Rangers Steven Gerrard made four changes from last Saturday’s 3-0 home win against a defensively minded Livingston.
Gerrard chose to start with Jon Flanagan, Joe Worrall, Lassana Coulibaly and Alfredo Morelos to replace Andy Halliday, Gareth McAuley, Ovie Ejaria and Kyle Lafferty, in this Ibrox Europa League tie with Villarreal.
The 0-0 draw brings in a little extra money into the coffers and some prestige of only losing once this season in the European arena, that is success for this new Rangers side, and not a disaster by any means.
After the match Gerrard could not praise his ‘world class, keeper enough for shutting out Villarreal with Allan McGregor pulled off a series of wonderful saves.
Once Daniel Candeias was controversially sent off again with his 2nd booking coming just before half time, Rangers were up against it in the second 45 minutes of this important Group G tie.
Cameroon striker Karl Toko Embaki was twice denied by super McGregor pulling off two stunning one-on-one saves, and was brilliant all night.
Rangers were now under heavy pressure, but managed to hold on and grab that very crucial point.
Beating Rapid Vienna in Austria in two weeks’ time will qualify the Ibrox club into the last 32 for the first time in many years.
Gerrard hailed his keeper and admitted the draw actually felt like a win. He said:
“I’m happy. We had chances but so did they. Our keeper Allan McGregor again was world class. His form has been incredible since day one. He comes big for us on two occasions with two huge saves.
“As a team today defensively we were excellent to a man the effort they have had to put in, the amount of dirty work they have had to do for each other.
“We started that in pre-season and now we are reaping the benefits.
This feels like a win for us because going down to 10 men. I’m sure they will go away disappointed”.
“But there’s still 90 minutes of football to play and we have given ourselves an unbelievable opportunity to get to the last 32 and that’s all that matters right now.”
Gerrard went on:
“It’s a great game for us. We will go to Vienna and give it our best. I believe if we defend like we did tonight then I have confidence then we can go there and win.”
Asked about the red card Gerrard said:
“I didn’t get the best view of it. He feels hard done by. It might be mistaken identity. We’ve already had one of those scenarios this season so we won’t talk about that”.
“We rolled our sleeves up and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We dug in and got ourselves a very important point. If we feel like we have a case we will put it forward.”
“We are an inexperienced team. We have young players who are all hungry and want to do exceptionally well for me and the supporters”.
“You can see the appreciation from the supporters. Sometimes we get it wrong. Emotions are flying high. I was guilty of that all the way through my career.
“I can’t have a go at them too much. But we do have to try and learn and stop making the mistakes and making it hard for ourselves.”
The Rangers boss also rubbished reports that Ovie Ejaria had been dropped to the bench as punishment for turning up late for training. While the Liverpool loanee had been late on Wednesday, Gerrard said:
“He apologised. He certainly wasn’t dropped. If he had been dropped then he would have been right out of the squad. It was a tactical move.”
“The players have set up a fantastic match with the opportunity to march into the last 32. That’s enormous strides in my book if we manage to do that. We’ve got two weeks to prepare for that game and we’ll go to Vienna and give it everything we’ve got.”
Team line-up: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan; Jack, Coulibaly, Arfield; Candeias, Morelos, Middleton,
Subs: Foderingham, Halliday, McAuley, Ejaria, McCrorie, Grezda, Lafferty.