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Rangers Champions League dreams hanging by a thread after 2-0 defeat

Rangers travelled to Belgium for the Champions League qualifier on Tuesday.

Rangers lose 2-0 to Union Saint-Gilloise in Champions League qualifier SNS Group
Rangers: Bidding for place in Champions League.

Rangers’ quest to end their long wait for Champions League football is hanging by a thread following a first leg defeat in their opening qualifier against Union Saint-Gilloise.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men are now in danger of falling at the first hurdle for the second season in a row after the 2-0 defeat in Belgium.

However last season’s run to Seville will give them hope of overturning that deficit in front of 50,000 of their own supporters back in Glasgow.

Van Bronckhorst made four changes from the team that won 2-1 at Livingston on Saturday with Malik Tillman and Rabbi Matondo handed their first starts.

The Ibrox side, who reached the final of the Europa League last season, have not appeared at the continent’s flagship competition in over a decade and they were looking to take the first step towards putting that right while knowing the winner of the tie would face a difficult game against PSV Eindhoven or Monaco in the next round.

Tavernier: Difficult night for Rangers captain.SNS Group
Tavernier: Difficult night for Rangers captain.

It was a bright start for the Premiership side with Tillman the first to cause the Belgian side problems with a jinking run down the left hand side but his cross was well cleared.

Left back Borna Barisic then forced the first save of the match when he curled a free-kick around the wall from a awkward angle.

And, spurred on by a vociferous travelling support, the pressure continued for the visitors as James Sands fired in a long-range shot that was comfortably kept at bay by the goalkeeper who also was forced in action by Tillman again all in the first ten minutes.

As the second half continued Union Saint Gilloise, who narrowly missed out on the Belgian championship last season, started to slowly get back into the game and caused a couple of nervy moments for the Rangers defence that was without John Souttar.

On the 25th minute the chance of the game fell to Dante Vanzeir who felt he should have had a corner after flashing the ball wide of the post from no more than a few yards out.

Champions League: Home side celebrate opener in qualifier.SNS Group
Champions League: Home side celebrate opener in qualifier.

But the home crowd didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal when captain Teddy Tuema fired a close range shot past McLaughlin, who might feel he should have done better, just over a minute later.

Rangers struggled to find their feet and looked initially rattled by the goal and there would have been some within the travelling support relieved to still only be a goal down at half time.

With 25 minutes remaining Ridvan Yilmaz and Ben Davies were handed their debuts in the place of Barasic and Ryan Jack as the Glasgow side continued to chase the game.

Colak then won a corner as Rangers began to push for an equaliser when his low cross was diverted behind before a team mate could get to it.

McLaughlin was then forced into a save just a few minutes later when the Belgians sprung a counter-attack and took advantage of a poor pass from Davies to almost double their lead.

But just when Rangers thought they survived the initial scare a penalty was awarded following a lengthy VAR check over a hand ball from Connor Goldson who was also booked.

Vanzeir, who scored 15 goals last season, stepped up to make it 2-0 to the hosts with 15 minutes to go.

The forward then came close to making it three and putting the game, if not the tie, well beyond Rangers but McLaughlin kept in them in it with a fine save.

And if they do manage to overturn the defeat next week they might think back to the third minute of injury time when Tavernier cleared a goal-bound shot off the line.

Rangers play Kilmarnock at home on Saturday before hosting Union for the second leg next Tuesday.