Rangers Europa League dreams end in Ibrox defeat to Benfica in last 16

A place in the Europa League quarter-final was on the line at Ibrox on Thursday.

Rangers are out of the Europa League after falling to a 1-0 defeat to Benfica at Ibrox in the last-16.

Philippe Clement’s side were the last Scottish side remaining in Europe this season but they will now only have domestic action to concentrate on after the second leg loss on Thursday night.

Following on from Motherwell’s win last weekend it is the first time in four years that Rangers have suffered back-to-back defeats at Ibrox.

Benfica top scorer Rafa Silva put the Portuguese side ahead in the second-half, to make it 3-2 on aggregate after last week’s 2-2 draw in Lisbon, and that proved to be the winning goal in the tie.

After a cagey opening ten minutes both sides had their first real chances in quick succession when a Tom Lawrence effort was saved before Jack Butland easily kept out a strike from Fredrik Aursnes.

Cyriel Dessers then had a chance with a header but the defender managed to deflect it behind for a corner as Rangers started to impose themselves on the game.

Benfica continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and a good chance fell to David Neres inside the box but he was unable to get his header on target.

The game was now flowing from end-to-end with the home side having the best of the possession and Scott Wright sent a speculative effort over the bar from distance.

Angel Di Maria then tried the same up the other end but the Argentina World Cup hero sent his shot well over the bar.

Benfica should have been one-nil up on the when Di Maria sent a low cross into the box but two forwards hesitated and left it to each other when it looked like all they had to do was tap it in for a certain goal before the ball was cleared out for a corner.

Rangers then produced an excellent counter-attack and a bursting run from Wright created some space before Desser’s effort was well saved but the Nigeria forward had swayed into an offside position so it wouldn’t have counted in any case.

The game was goalless at half-time and Rangers were first out of the traps in the second and created an gilt-edged chance just after the restart when Wright played in Dessers again who looked certain to score but his shot was deflected wide.

Benfica were starting to look as though they’d rather be anywhere else than the pouring rain of the southside of Glasgow as Rangers dominated the early stages of the second 45.

But they started to grow into the game again and Connor Goldson was booked after pulling down Silva who was racing through on goal.

The match was starting to get stretched with gaps appearing at both ends and Neres should have done better with a chance that presented itself in the Rangers box but he directed a tame effort towards Butland who easily held on to it.

Silva then had the ball in the net after a quick counter-attack that came from a Rangers corner to make it 1-0 on the 67th minute.

The assistant referee initially had his flag up for offside but after a VAR check it was clear that the Benfica forward was in his own half when the ball was played to him so the goal stood.

Todd Cantwell and Rabbi Matondo were then brought on instantly as Philippe Clement looked to give them more of an attacking threat for the last 20.

Kemar Roofe then joined them in a last throw of the dice to salvage something from the game.

Butland produced a fine save on the 81st minute to keep Rangers hopes alive after the defence was cut open by another rapid counter-attack.

As time was ticking away John Lundstram then had an effort from outside the box but he failed to get as much as he would like on it and the keeper held it well.

Their attention will now turn back to the Premiership title-race with a game against Dundee at Dens Park on Sunday as they chase a domestic treble.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code
Posted in