A look at four talking points from the seven-goal thriller in Moscow
Lack of attacking options
With Kyle Lafferty, Ryan Kent and Jamie Murphy out injured, Rangers had no attacking options on the bench and for the last 30 minutes, had nothing in reserve to freshen up the attack.
Daniel Candeias and Glenn Middleton in particular performed well in the first half, along with Alfredo Morelos - who wrongly had a goal ruled out - but the trio faded in the second period as Spartak turned the game on its head.
Had Steven Gerrard been able to shake up his forward line, Rangers might have got something from the game. He did have Eros Grezda among his substitutes but only threw him on in the 82nd minute, suggesting he didn’t view the Albanian as the answer.
No case for the defence
Despite signs earlier this season that Steven Gerrard might have solved the defensive woes that had dogged Rangers in recent seasons, it may be back to square one for the Ibrox boss, who watched his rearguard have a night to forget. The back four never looked entirely comfortable and were stretched all night by Spartak’s forward line. Nikola Katic looked short on match fitness; Connor Goldson scored an own goal and was unfortunate to see Spartak’s winner take a deflection of his leg; Jon Flanagan was roasted time after time and looked for all the world like a right back playing at left back and James Tavernier was at least partly culpable for two of Spartak’s four goals. There’s no doubt that the Gers backline has improved, but Gerrard will be demanding more consistency from them after a naive showing in Russia.
All to do
Victory in Moscow last night would have put Rangers in the driving seat for progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League. The Gers host Villarreal later this month before a tricky trip to Vienna in the final round of fixtures. Had Alfredo Morelos not had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside, Rangers would have held a two-goal lead at the break and in all likelihood would have gone on to win. Now the Gers face two big games to keep their Europa League hopes alive, and have to hope that other results go their way too. However, any repeat performances would likely see a very promising European campaign fizzle out at the group stage, when things were looking positive for Gerrard’s first European campaign as Rangers boss.
On any other night, scoring your first European goal and registering an assist would have been cause for celebration. However, while Glenn Middleton can be more than happy with his contribution in Russia, his efforts have been overshadowed by Rangers’ extraordinary collapse; the Gers having thrice led, only to throw it away three times. With Jamie Murphy still sidelined and Ryan Kent out for an extended period of time, the impressive teenager has a big chance to stake a claim for a regular starting berth in light blue, especially with Eros Grezda struggling to find form. The fact he kept Grezda - an Albanian international - out of the starting line up at the Otkritie Arena indicates just how highly he’s regarded by the Ibrox coaching staff.