RANGERS’ run in the Europa League is at an end following tonight’s 1-0 reverse to Rapid Vienna at the Allianz Stadion.
Needing to win to progress, Dejan Ljubicic’s goal six minutes from time was enough to end the Light Blues’ hopes of progression to the Last 32 of the competition having entered all the way back at the start of July in the first qualifying round.
From the side which drew with Dundee on Sunday, Steven Gerrard made no-less than seven changes to his XI, with returns for Scott Arfield and Alfredo Morelos after their domestic suspensions, while Borna Barisic made his first start since the end of September after recovering from injury.
The opening minutes saw both sides trying to suss each other out, with neither really able to retain the ball for any prolonged period of time.
Indeed, 15 minutes were on the clock before there was any notable goalmouth action, with Barisic forcing a pretty simple save from Richard Strebinger down low to the left of the Rapid goalkeeper with a free-kick from 25-yards.
Then on 21 minutes, Connor Goldson came so, so close to opening the scoring. A James Tavernier free-kick from just outside the area on the right found the head of Goldson in the six-yard box, with his effort coming back off the crossbar.
A Barisic free-kick in a similar position on the opposite side was cleared by Rapid with three minutes to go before half-time in what was the only other time in the half Gers, or the home side for that matter, threatened.
Knowing it was they who needed the win, Rangers began the second half brightly, and a through ball from Scott Arfield was inches away from perfection as he released Alfredo Morelos only for Strebinger to read it and clear at the last possible second.
Morelos then had a soft shout for a penalty turned down after a collision with Strebinger in the area as he and Arfield went for a loose ball before Rapid has a decent spell, without ever really troubling Allan McGregor.
Lassana Coulibaly had an effort on goal which went just over following a neat triangle of play between him, Arfield and Morelos while Gelnn Middleton shot high and wide when a corner was cleared to his feet on the edge of the area.
Tavernier then brought a great save out of Strebinger with a 25-yard drive while substitute Kyle Lafferty was inches away from connecting to an excellent cross from Barisic from the left wing, but as Gers pushed for the goal that wold take them through, Rapid netted the opening goal with six minutes left on the clock.
Dejan Ljubicic, who had come onto the park just minutes earlier, worked his way into the area, wrongfooted McGregor and planted the ball into the bottom corner to end the Light Blues’ interest in the competition.
SK RAPID WIEN: Strebinger, Muldur (Thurnwald, 45), Barac, Bolingoli, Schwab, Berisha, Murg, Martic (Ljubicic, 79) Hofmann, Auer, Ivan (Schobesberger,62).
SUBS NOT USED: Knoflach, Dibon, Knasmullner, Alar.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, McAuley, Goldson, Barisic; Ross McCrorie, Jack (Lafferty, 79) Coulibaly (Grezda, 71); Arfield, Middleton, Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Robby McCrorie, Flanagan, Halliday, Katic, Worrall.
REFEREE: Paolo Mazzoleni (Italy)