Kemar Roofe steals the show for Rangers in damp Liege with wonder-goal

On another signature night in the Europa League for Rangers, their first away victory in the group stage of the competition under Steven Gerrard’s management was sealed by an extraordinary goal from Kemar Roofe.

James Tavernier scores from the penalty spot for Rangers against Standard Liege in Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Leading through James Tavernier’s ninth goal of the season, a coolly converted first half penalty, substitute Roofe ensured Rangers opened their Group D campaign with maximum points with an outrageously brilliant strike from just inside his own half in stoppage time.

The 2-0 win was a fully deserved outcome for Gerrard’s side as they inflicted a first European home defeat in four years on Standard Liege.

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Roofe seizes his chance as Morelos struggles

It was a night when Rangers were once more composed and patient in possession, a style of play within which Alfredo Morelos does not always look effective.

The Colombian striker was guilty of giving the ball away carelessly at times, especially in a period of the first half when his team were looking to build on Tavernier’s breakthrough.

Morelos improved as the match went on but his search for a 21st European goal for Rangers, which would equal the all-time club record held by Ally McCoist, continues.

He was frustrated twice by saves from Standard goalkeeper Arnaud Bodart in the second half before being replaced by the fit-again Roofe.

Morelos remains short of the optimum form which made him the stand-out performer of Rangers’ Europa League campaign last season and how has a serious challenger for his place up front.

Jack runs the show on his return

Gerrard spoke at the weekend of how difficult he had found it to leave Ryan Jack out of his midfield for the Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park.

While the form of Steven Davis has been impeccable, Gerrard decided this was the time to give the veteran Northern Ireland captain a rest and restore Jack to the heart of the engine room alongside Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield.

Jack duly delivered a performance which underlined why his manager rates him so highly. The Scotland international’s metronomic style of play is ideally suited to the European stage, offering both support to his defence and a steady supply of possession to those in more advanced areas.

Bassey looks like a real find

Their full-backs are crucial to the way Rangers play under Gerrard and he looks to have found a fine deputy for Borna Barisic on the left in the shape of Calvin Bassey.

The 20-year-old has made just one starting appearance since joining from Leicester City in the summer but has regularly caught the eye with his cameos from the bench.

This was a more substantial contribution as he replaced Barisic just before half-time when the Croatian international went off with a thigh injury.

Bassey used his physicality to defend impressively and also showed he possesses the attacking prowess and willingness to get forward which is demanded of him in Gerrard’s system.

Another controlled display

As has become their trademark under Gerrard in this competition, Rangers looked assured and comfortable. The three changes made from the starting line-up which won at Celtic Park last Saturday provided a seamless transition to the European stage as Leon Balogun, Jack and Ianis Hagi replaced Filip Helander, Davis and Brandon Barker.

Comfortably the better team in the opening 20 minutes, Rangers merited the lead provided to them during that spell by Tavernier’s spot-kick.

The Ibrox skipper had already underlined his attacking instincts when he screamed at Morelos to leave the ball as a Barisic cross eluded the Standard defence. It was a difficult chance for Tavernier but he would have been disappointed with his miscue which saw him fail to test goalkeeper Arnaud Bodart.

There was nothing to fault his pure strike from 12 yards which broke the deadlock in the 19th minute. Tavernier’s well delivered corner from the right had provoked the penalty award when Connor Goldson’s downward header was clearly handled by Nicolas Gavory.

Bodart guessed the right way but although he got the fingertips of his right glove to the ball, it had been struck so powerfully and precisely by Tavernier that he could not prevent it nestling in the corner of the net.

Hagi almost doubled Rangers lead with what would have been a goal of the season contender two minutes later, his ambitious shot from around 30 yards dipping and swerving narrowly wide of the target.

The hosts responded and began to ask questions of Rangers with their lively work in the wide areas. Gerrard’s men rode their luck in the 28th minute when Jackson Muleka’s header from one of Liege’s dangerous deliveries struck the crossbar with Allan McGregor grasping at thin air.

The young Congolese striker threatened again deep into first half stoppage time but was fortunate the match officials did not spot him using a hand on this occasion as he sent another cross against McGregor’s bar, the Rangers goalkeeper’s sense of injustice compounded when he was booked for vociferously pointing out the offence to the referee.

Rangers were far from content to settle on their slender lead and Bodart made a decent save to deny Morelos at the start of the second half, although a poor first touch from the striker increased the difficulty of the chance.

He did little wrong with his next effort on the hour mark, however, when his well struck angled effort was kept out by an excellent stop from Bodart.

Rangers were rarely troubled the evening progressed amid a deluge of rain which offered a fresh challenge to both sides.

It was Roofe who had the stunning final say, picking the ball up inside his own half and initially looking simply to run down the clock. But as he forged his way to the halfway line, he spotted Bodart off his line and executed a stunning lob into the net.

Standard: Bodart; Fai (Carcela-Gonzalez 64), Vanheusden, Dussenne (Jans 78), Gavory; Bokadi; Lestienne (Avenatti 72), Cimirot, Bastien. Amallah (Cop 72); Muleka (Oulare 46).

Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic (Bassey 43); Arfield, Jack, Kamara; Kent, Hagi (Aribo 67); Morelos (Roofe 74).

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