Rangers have reached the quarter finals of the Europa League after defeating Red Star 4-2 on aggregate.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side lost 2-1 to the Serbian champions in Belgrade but their 3-0 win at Ibrox saw them win the tie and take a place in the last eight of European competition for the first time since 2008.
Mirko Ivanovic had given Red Star the lead but Ryan Kent responded with an equaliser in the second half and despite El Fardou Ben’s late penalty, Rangers saw out the tie to take their place in Friday’s draw.
Van Bronckhorst had said that his side would be entering “a very, very hostile” environment for the second leg and 50,000 Red Star fans packed into an intimidating Marakana turned up the pressure on Rangers from kick-off.
After just 10 minutes, Red Star got the early goal they needed to lift their hopes and increase the volume in the stadium.
A short corner allowed Kanga to swing in a cross and despite plenty of Rangers players in the box, the ball was allowed to bounce in front of Ivanovic, who set himself and fired past Allan McGregor from close range.
Two minutes later McGregor was called on to tip another Ivanovic shot behind as the hosts found space to attack and went in search of a second.
Rangers responded well and had what seed to be a golden opportunity when breaking three on two but Alfredo Morelos’ picked the wrong pass and the chance was gone.
The Colombian then fizzed a shot just past the post after cutting in from the right, only for Red Star’s Milan Pavkov to shoot wide with a similar effort moments later.
Both sides endeavoured to create chances but Red Star came closest to adding to the scoreline just before half time when right-back Cristiano Piccini let fly with a powerful shot that McGregor saved one-handed. The veteran keeper collected the resulting corner to see Rangers into the break just a goal down.
The hosts increased their efforts again after the restart and Rangers were firmly on the back foot as McGregor tipped away a near-post header from a corner and moments later Calvin Bassey was forced into a last-ditch tackle to prevent a near certain goal.
On 55 minutes, the momentum switched at a time when the Scottish champions looked to be under increasing pressure. Glen Kamara won a 50-50 challenge on the halfway line and released Kent, who raced forward and into the box, his clipped finish taking a deflection and nestling in the back of the net.
With their three-goal advantage restored, Rangers didn’t need to force play and it was down to Red Star to provide attacking intent. They continued to test the Rangers defence and McGregor continued to show his best to deny them, a double save frustrating substitute El Faroud Ben, then gathering a header from Milan Gajic.
Scott Arfield and James Sands were introduced for Jack and Joe Aribo to provide fresh legs as Red Star continued to push and the clock ran down.
With ten minutes to go, Rangers lost Alfredo Morelos to injury and Kemar Roofe was brought on, while Borna Barisic came on for John Lundstram and Red Star’s chances of turning the tie around seemed to diminish with each delay that broke the pace of the game.
An injury time penalty from El Fardou Ben put Red Star ahead on the night but came too late to change the tie and Rangers then saw it out to the final whistle before looking forward to a quarter-final draw that will set up another huge European occasion.
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