Mon. Jul 22nd, 2019

St Joseph’s 0-4 Rangers: Steven Gerrard’s team win Europa League qualifier

Loan signing Sheyi Ojo curled in Rangers’ second

Rangers took command of their Europa League first-round qualifier against St Joseph’s after a clinical second-half display in Gibraltar.

Steven Gerrard’s side, who reached the group stage last term, are set to meet Cork City or Progres Niederkorn in the second round after opening a four-goal lead before next Thursday’s second leg.

After a frustrating first half, Ryan Jack volleyed in before new signing Sheyi Ojo doubled the advantage. Borna Barisic and Alfredo Morelos added further goals to cap a routine win.

It renders next week’s second leg at Ibrox effectively moot, and means Rangers can look forward to welcoming visitors from either Ireland or Luxembourg on 25 July.

However, the Scottish Premiership runners-up still have to negotiate a further three rounds after this if they are to repeat last season’s achievement.

Frustrating start but clinical finish

If Gerrard needed any evidence to demonstrate to his players the perils of complacency – even against the semi-professional third best team in Gibraltar – then rivals Celtic’s defeat by Lincoln Red Imps on the same ground three years ago provided it. Similarly, there was also Rangers’ own ignominious defeat in 2017 by their potential second-round opponents Progres Niederkorn.

In that vein, a frustrating first 45 minutes yielded little with the positives coming in the form of Ojo and Jordan Jones, catching the eye on their debuts with their pace and direct running.

Ojo drove from halfway into St Joseph’s box and forced a save from Francisco Vera after just five minutes, and later did so again from distance after jinking off the right-hand side. And, on the other flank, Jones also drove in field to tee up Jermain Defoe to shoot from 12 yards, but St Joseph defender Federico Villar’s desperate lunge took the ball off the former England striker’s toes.

Glen Kamara’s fizzing drive from distance and Defoe’s toe-poke on the angle were the only other clear chances for the visitors.

St Joseph’s coach Raul Procopio would have been delighted with his side’s work rate and positional discipline, which kept Rangers at bay despite some tidy combination play in midfield.

They also posed a threat themselves on occasion. Villar might have done better to connect with a free-kick when unmarked at the back post, and Christian Pecci and Domingo Ferrer both volleyed over from the edge of the area after defensive errors. Composure was lacking, though.

Greater incision in the final third would surely have been the demand from Gerrard at half-time, and his players delivered swiftly to dismiss any notion this tie could be a banana skin.

Barisic, whose delivery had up to this point been poor, expertly picked out Jack to coolly volley home the opener and ease any rising tension.

Ojo impressed on his competitive debut for Rangers

Ojo, on loan from Liverpool, displayed superb technical quality throughout and his neat finish for the second hinted he could be a potent weapon this season. The England under-21 international nicked the ball past the despairing Mauri, skipped into the box and side footed into the far corner with minimal fuss.

Now Rangers were in total control, and played with greater urgency against tiring opponents. Ojo should have had a second when played through in the box, but was denied by Vera, but minutes later the St Joseph’s goalkeeper could only claw Barisic’s free-kick out of the net after it had crossed the line.

With the outcome now confirmed, on came two other summer signings in Joe Aribo and Greg Stewart, who were joined by Rangers’ top scorer of last season Morelos. The Colombian striker wasted no time in picking up where he left off last term, as he latched on to James Tavernier’s delicious delivery to kill the tie with a deft header.

Despite further chances Rangers’ tally remained at four. Job done, though, and surely into the next round.

‘Outcome never in doubt’ – analysis

Former Rangers midfielder Derek Ferguson on BBC Radio Scotland

I don’t think at any point in the game was there any panic. Even at half time I was watching Steven Gerrard and his assistant Gary McAllister. I think they would just have had a few choice words and pointed a few of the players in the right direction and they got the right reaction. I don’t think there was any doubt about the outcome of the game, but they did it with a bit of style.

What I like is when Rangers get into the final third they’ve got a change of pace now, and that’s down to the players- Jones, Ojo and Aribo. I know the opposition wasn’t the greatest, but the way Ojo glides with the ball, he looks a class act.

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