RANGERS leave Poland tonight with their Europa League hopes very-much alive following a battling goalless draw with Legia Warsaw.
The Light Blues matched their opponents for much of the night, and next week, in front of their own passionate support, know victory by just a single goal will carry them to the Group Stages for the second year in a row.
Having made 10 changes to his XI at the weekend for the East Fife Betfred Cup victory, Steven Gerrard again altered his squad to the same degree, with only Joe Aribo retaining his place.
To say the atmosphere inside the Polish Army Stadium was deafening would be something of an understatement. The noise created by the Poles was simply extraordinary, and as the teams emerged from the tunnel, a huge banner covering both tiers behind one of the goals was unfurled, reading “it’s not what’s in front of you, it’s who’s beside you.”
It has to be said, however, the 1000 or-so traveling fans from Glasgow were giving as good as they could manage, still making themselves heard in the thunderous din.
And indeed, the first chance of the match came for the visitors after eight minutes. James Tavernier’s cross was typically excellent, and meeting it at the back post was Sheyi Ojo, the winger having come in off his touchline, heading just wide of the post.
From that, Legia charged up the park, and Luqinhas had a shot pushed wide of the target by Allan McGregor, the Gers goalkeeper doing well to get down quickly to avert the danger.
Both sides, from there, were able to share decent spells of possession before the visitors forced the next opportunity in the game, Joe Aribo seeing a shot from a tight angle deflected just over.
Again, Legia responded pretty quickly with a chance of their own, Cafu this time forcing McGregor into another strong stop as he found himself some space in the penalty area to try his luck.
The game continued in much the same fashion until the break, before, right at the start of the second half, Legia missed a great chance to go in front with Valerin Gvilla volleying over at the front post, around 10-yards out, as he met a Luqinhas cross.
Defender Igor Lewcuk then headed a Marko Vesovic corner over the bar as the home side looked to ramp up the pressure, before Lewcuk again nodded the ball off-target, this time from a Gvilia free-kick.
Gers were struggling to retain possession as well as they had in the first-half, but on 64 minutes came their best opportunity of the match to date, with Scott Arfield threading a super ball through the Legia defence and into the path of Alfredo Morelos.
The angle was closing on the Colombian as he got his foot to the ball, and his shot was well blocked by goalkeeper Radoslaw Majecki.
Two minutes later, and a Nikola Katic header from a Steven Davis corner flashed just over the bar as the visitors began to enjoy a better period of the game once again.
Aribo was next to try his luck, his super feet working space for him to have a shot from the edge of the box, but it lacked power and trundled into the arms of Majecki.
Legia came back again though, and more excellent McGregor goalkeeping kept the tie level as he got down superbly to his right to turn away a venomous Vesovic effort which came at him to his left, just inside the area, while Morelos had another effort, this time from around 20-yards, saved by Majecki at the other end.
That was to be the last real chance of the night, and the two will do battle again at what is sure to be a fervent Ibrox a week tonight.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan; Jack, Davis, Aribo, Ojo, Morelos (Defoe, 87), Arfield (Kamara, 87).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Helander, Jones, King, Barisic.
BOOKED: Flanagan (61’), Morelos (72’)
LEGIA WARSAW: Majecki, Lewczuk, Gvilia, Rocha, Martins, Cafu (Antolic, 71), Vesovic (Nagy, 84) Stolarski, Jedrzejczyk, Luquinhas, Kulenovic.
SUBS NOT USED: Cierzniak, Jodlowiec, Wieteska, Carlitos, Niezgoda.
Booked: Martins (25’), Jedrzejczyk (39’), Stolarski (51’), Vesovic (64’)
REFEREE: Benoit Jean-Bastien (France)