RANGERS will once again face Progres Niederkorn in the Europa League qualifiers after hammering St Joseph’s of Gibraltar at Ibrox tonight.
Leading 4-0 from the first leg in Gibraltar last Tuesday, an Alfredo Morelos hat-trick, which included his 50th goal for the club, as well as a Jermain Defoe double and one from Joe Aribo secured comfortable passage to the next round.
Manager Steven Gerrard made no-less than nine changes for tonight’s match, bringing in Jake Hastie and George Edmundson for debuts, while there were first starts for Greg Stewart and Matt Polster, and Greg Docherty made his first competitive appearance since April 2018 for the club.
The huge crowd of 45,718 inside Ibrox on a super midsummer’s evening needn’t wait long for the opening goal with it arriving after just three minutes.
Controlled, patient play from Greg Docherty on the edge of the area ended with him picking out Joe Aribo, who was stationed just to the right of goal.
Aribo beautifully spun away from marker Federico Villar and hit his shot across the face of goal, the ball evading ‘keeper Jamie Robba and finding the far bottom corner.
It was just the start Gerrard and Gers were hoping for, and it should have been 2-0 five minutes later as an Andy Halliday free-kick was met by the totally unmarked Greg Stewart inside the six-yard box, but he headed off-target.
Halliday, having been put through by Jake Hastie, should have gone himself from around 10-yards out but opted instead to square for Greg Docherty who was closed down in the act of shooting.
The full-back then had another chance, lofting a shot over from just outside the box as again Hastie provided him with the opportunity, while he was to go on to shoot only just wide with a curling free-kick around the half-hour mark.
Super, powerful play from Alfredo Morelos to skin Jamie Serra and square for Hastie should have resulted in goal number two, but he blasted by the far post before the second finally arrived in stoppage time at the end of the half.
Hastie’s corner was flicked-on by Connor Goldson at the front post and coming in at the back with a header was Alfredo Morelos for his second of the season and his 50th in Rangers colours.
Gers again began the second half in absolute control and were awarded a penalty on 55 minutes with Greg Docherty being bundled over by Daniel Guerrero inside the box.
Up stepped Morelos to take, and for the first time in his Rangers career from the spot, he netted with aplomb, blasting to the left and beyond the reach of goalkeeper Robba.
Morelos then completed his hat-trick 10 minutes later, though he might have had the opportunity a little earlier from the spot with Matt Polster having appeals for another penalty turned down by the referee when he was chopped down in the box.
No matter, his hat-trick goal was a thing of beauty. Greg Docherty’s super cross was met in the six-yard box by the Colombian where he just deftly flicked it by the goalkeeper much to the delight of all those inside Ibrox tonight, this being his third triple for the Light Blues.
He was replaced by Jermain Defoe to a heroes reception soon after, while Gerrard handed out another debut, this time to Academy star Josh McPake who came on to replace Greg Docherty.
St Joseph’s almost pulled one back on 74 minutes from a corner which was met by Guererro, but on the line to deny him twice was Andy Halliday with a pair of wonderful blocks.
Number five for Gers then arrived two minutes later, Jermain Defoe deftly poking home a Polster cross at the near post, while the two nearly combined again soon after, though the ball evaded Defoe and dropped for Halliday at the back post to finish, though he was denied by the offside flag.
Defoe did grab another on 86 minutes, however, following more superb Rangers play. Polster’s ball inside to Greg Stewart was backheeled into Defoe’s path, and when put through one-on-one with Robba, he was never going to miss.
Robba denied McPake a debut goal with a smart save in the closing minutes to keep the scoring to six on the night and 10 on aggregate.
So it’s Progres Niederkorn again for Gers, the Luxembourg side having overcome Cork City 3-2 on aggregate earlier this evening.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Polster, Edmundson, Goldson, Halliday; Kamara, Docherty (McPake, 67) Aribo; Hastie (Arfield, 58), Stewart, Morelos (Defoe, 67)
SUBS NOT USED: Firth, Katic, Barjonas, Mayo.
ST JOSEPH’S FC: Robba, Fernandez, Guerrero, Cornejo (Green, 69), Boro, Martinez, Hernandez, Serra, Pena, Villar, Ferrer (Garro, 79)
SUBS NOT USED: Casciaro, Lobato, Reyes, Vera, Warwick.
BOOKED: Fernandez, Boro.
REFEREE: Christopher Jaeger (Austria)