RANGERS’ European campaign came to an end after just a single tie as they crashed out of the Europa League in the first round against Luxembourg’s Progres Niederkorn.
The Gers conceded twice in ten minutes midway through the second half of the second leg encounter to lose 2-0 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.
The first goal for the home side came on 65 minutes after failing to close down a Progres Niederkorn attack and then from a free-kick which wormed it’s way through the box to find a way over the line.
Both Niko Kranjcar and Josh Windass were denied by the woodwork from headers in the second half, before Kenny Miller had a lob also come back off the frame of the goal in injury time but Pedro Caixinha’s side couldn’t find their way past Progres.
It means that after six years away from European football the Light Blues will have to wait another year for a continental tie.
Six minutes were gone when Rangers caused Progres the first problem of the game, an attacking exchange which became fleeting for the visitors during the 90 minutes. Kranjcar whipped in the first corner of the game from the right and after a header down the ball fell at the feet of Miller. The striker had little room to manoeuvre by the near post and hit it straight at the keeper.
Wes Foderingham was shared some blushes 11 minutes later when Olivier Thill nearly snuck a free-kick inside the post. The Gers number one had assumed the forward would opt to curl the ball high and towards the top corner so moved himself towards his left post. There was some quick thinking from Thill though and he chose to bend a low ball the other side of the wall and it sent Foderingham scrambling along his goal line before bouncing wide.
The goal opened up for Kranjcar on 16 minutes but he put his side footed effort well over the bar with Rangers looking to take some ownership of the game.
Progres had come into this game needing to have more impetus in attack as they chased the tie and they were succeeding in unsettling the Light Blues backline. Mike Schneider fired over after a few bites of the cherry from the Luxembourg side on 20 minutes.
Miller had another great chance five minutes later when a Kranjcar corner worked its way out to Fabio Cardoso on the left. His delivery was superb as he sent the ball across the box with speed and all the striker had to do was connect with his head to turn the ball beyond Sebastian Flauss but he was just fractions away.
The home side suffered a big blow on the half hour mark when their number one keeper pulled up after taking a kick. That was the end of Flauss’ game. Progres didn’t seem effected as Thill delivered another warning for the travelling Gers moments later when he turned on the edge of the box and then unleashed a rocket of a strike. The ball whizzed just wide of the upright.
Jordan Rossiter was back in the starting line-up for the first time since August 2016 and chanced his luck when the ball fell loose to him on the edge of the box on 36 minutes. The former Liverpool player threw his laces through it but as with Thill at the other end it was wide.
Caixinha chose to remove Alfredo Morelos at half-time on his first start for the Gers. But it was Niederkorn who fired the first warning of the second period when Emmanuel Francoise latched onto a through ball in the right channel to run Foderingham down. One-on-one with the keeper he tried to side foot the ball into the bottom corner but the Rangers stopper got a strong hand to it as he dived full stretch across the turf.
The hour mark had dragged by and still Rangers had failed to deliver a concrete opening. Ryan Jack headed down into the hands of replacement keeper Charly Schinker on 61 minutes after Niederkorn saw a chance shave the crossbar at the other end.
Kranjcar got his side the closest they had been to a goal on 63 minutes. Lee Wallace hung a ball in the air to the far post and both the Croatian and James Tavernier jumped for it. But with an open goal ahead of him the 32-year-old nodded straight onto the woodwork.
That goal could have turned the game but instead two minutes on and the Scottish side were behind. Windass failed to close down a stray corner and the influential Olivier Thill was in. The Luxembourg under 21 skipped into the box to flash a ball across goal and Francoise turned it over the line.
Ten minutes later Rangers were in double the trouble when Thill’s free-kick on the right of the box somehow found its way through a sea of bodies and beyond Foderingham. It bounced unkindly just before the line but should have been cleared earlier.
The Gers needed just one goal to see them through and Windass went agonisingly close to making up for his earlier mistake when he crashed a header off the crossbar with five minutes to play. Tavernier had delivered a looping ball from the right and the midfielder threw himself through the air to try and bullet it into the net.
Miller could have stolen the tie back in stoppage time after a corner fell to him on the edge of the box. The striker cleverly tried to lob the ball over the head of Schinker but the woodwork again came to Niederkorn’s rescue.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Bates, Cardoso, Wallace, Jack, Rossiter (Herrera 77’), Kranjcar, Candeias (Windass 58’), Miller, Morelos (Dalcio 45’)
Subs not used: Alnwick, McCrorie, Holt, Waghorn.
PROGRES NIERDERKORN: Flauss (Schinker 33’), O.Thill (Vogel 78’), Schneider, Francoise, Watzka, Ferino, Lafon, S.Thill, Karayer, Matias Marques, Karapetyan (Fiorani 83’)
Subs not used: Borges, Sully, Soares, Mastrangelo.
Goals: Francoise 65’, O. Thill 75’