Rangers draw with Benfica to boost hopes of Europa League progress

Rangers led at half-time but had to settle for a draw in the Europa League thriller.

Rangers draw with Benfica in Lisbon to boost hopes of Europa League progress SNS Group

Rangers set up an all-or-nothing second leg match against Benfica at Ibrox next week after drawing 2-2 with the Portuguese champions in Lisbon.

The first leg result boosts Rangers’ chances of reaching the quarter-final of the Europa League, though a thrilling ninety minutes showed the danger that Benfica will pose in Glasgow.

Tom Lawrence put Rangers in front early on but Angel Di Maria levelled from the spot before Dujon Sterling gave the visitors a half-time lead.

An own goal from Connor Goldson made it 2-2 and though Benfica pushed for a winner, Rangers earned a positive result to take back to Glasgow.

Rangers got off to the perfect start in Estadio da Luz, taking the lead after just seven minutes.

Fabio Silva and Mohamed Diomande combined on the left, with the midfielder hitting the bye-line and lifting the ball into the centre of the box. Lawrence arrived in space to header past Anatoliy Trubin and down into the corner of the net.

Benfica, going into the game on the back of successive defeats to rivals Porto and Sporting, looked for an instant response but didn’t level until injury time at the end of the first half.

As Rangers dealt with a spell of pressure from the hosts, a high ball into the post hit John Souttar’s head and then his hand.

 After reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, referee Tobias Stieler pointed to the penalty spot and World Cup winner Di Maria stepped up to send Jack Butland the wrong way and stroke a cool finish into the net.

The Portuguese side thought they had done enough to go in level at halt time but there was drama just before the break.

Silva took possession in the opposition box and hit a shot towards the far post and Sterling pounced to stab the ball home and restore Rangers’ lead.

Benfica came out with attacking intent in the second half and got their reward after 67 minutes, albeit with a stroke of luck. Di Maria hit a free kick into the danger area and Goldson headed into his own net.

The hosts then enjoyed the majority of the play as they chased a winner in front of their own fans but Rangers held on to bank a draw and keep the tie alive for next week’s return match at Ibrox.

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