RANGERS romped to a super Europa League victory here in Gibraltar against St Joseph’s this evening to hand themselves a huge cushion going into next week’s second leg.
After creating plenty in the first half but not being able to find the back of the net, Ryan Jack, Sheyi Ojo, Borna Barisic and Alfredo Morelos struck to make it a very comfortable evening in the shadow of the famous Rock for Steven Gerrard’s side.
The manager handed debuts to Ojo and Jordan Jones, and he will have been pleased with how both performed and also the professional job his side did here in the British territory tonight.
With the temperature gauge showing a pretty decent 24 degrees with a stiff wind blowing through the Victoria Stadium at kick-off, conditions were pretty favourable for Gers who had experienced similar just over a week ago in the Algarve on their pre-season training camp.
As was to be expected, the visitors, backed by a typically huge travelling traveling support, began the brighter and fashioned the first real opportunity after just six minutes.
In charging down a long shot from Ernesto Cornejo, Connor Goldson allowed Sheyi Ojo to pick up the ball just inside his own half and set sail for goal.
Despite having the opportunity to do so, St Joseph’s failed to put a tackle in on the winger before he shot from just outside the area with a deflection off Daniel Guerro carrying the ball into the side-netting.
Ryan Jack had a shot from around 25-yards which was easily gathered by goalkeeper Mateo Vera while Ojo had another attempt, this time bringing out another save from Vera who dived to his left to collect.
The chances were beginning to come, and after pressing high to win the ball, Jack fed Steven Davis who, in turn, found Jermain Defoe in the left channel, but from a tight angle he shot over the far top corner.
St Joseph’s had their first effort on the 28-minute mark with Cristian Pecci firing over Allan McGregor’s bar from distance on the volley, while at the other end, Defoe had a certain goal denied with Boro charging down his effort on the end of a neat Jordan Jones cutback.
Ojo was next to be denied, Vera saving well from close-range from him again at the back post, while Glen Kamara’s wicked effort from distance again, found only the side-netting.
As half-time approached, again St Joseph’s threatened with Domingo Ferrer shooting over McGregor’s bar but 0-0 is how the score remained at the break.
Gers really should have had the lead within three minutes of the restart with Ojo poking a terrific James Tavernier free-kick delivery over the bar from close-range before on the 50-minute mark, the opener arrived.
Jordan Jones fed Borna Barisic with a neat lay-off and the Croatian’s cross was an excellent one to find Ryan Jack just shy of the penalty spot to cushion a super volley into the bottom corner.
It was Jack’s first European goal for the club and, on the balance of play, it was no more than Gers deserved for their efforts to that point.
Indeed, it almost got better within a minute of the restart, Jones seeing yet another effort hit the side-netting before on 56 minutes, goal number two duly arrived.
Confusion in the home defence allowed James Tavernier to nod a ball down to Sheyi Ojo to step inside his marker and curl a beautiful finish beyond the reach of Vera from just inside the area, the shot kissing the inside of the right-hand post on its way in.
The control Rangers had on the game only increased once the two-goal cushion was established, thanks to Ojo’s first official goal, with chances still coming along with real regularity.
Ojo brought another good save out of Vera with sub Alfredo Morelos providing the assist, but on 68 minutes the scoreboard ticked over once again, with Borna Barisic grabbing his first Rangers goal – despite the best efforts of Connor Goldson to claim it!
A super free-kick from the Croatian was over the line to Vera’s left before he clawed it back into the path of Goldson who rammed it in to make no mistake. It was the Englishman who celebrated – but TV replays confirmed it to be Barisic’s goal.
St Joseph’s, having worked so hard to keep Gers at bay in the first half now looked dead on their feet, and Morelos added a fourth on 77 minutes.
A Tavernier delivery from a short corner found the Colombian unmarked at the back post to bundle the ball over the line as Gers just powered away from their Gibraltarian opponents.
Ojo brought a fine save out of Vera from 25-yards while Morelos should have had another, again being left alone at the back post to head wide of the target this time.
4-0 it finished however on an excellent night for Gers as they kicked-off the season in style.
ST JOSEPH’S FC: Vera, Mauri, Guerro, Lobato, Cornejo, Boro, Martinez, Pecci, Pena, Villar, Ferrer.
SUBS: Robba, Casciaro, Reyes, Hernandez, Green, Garro, Serra.
Booked: Pecci (45+1’), Guerro (47’), Boro (59’),
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Barisic; Jack (Aribo, 63’), Davis, Kamara; Ojo, Defoe (Morelos, 63’), Jones (Stewart, 71’)
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Edmundson, Halliday, Morelos, Docherty.
Booked: Defoe (27’), Ojo (90′).
REFEREE: Nejc Kajtazovic (Slovenia)