Lincoln Red Imps striker who downed Celtic targets bigger shock against Rangers
The revised single-leg format for this season’s qualifiers, imposed by Uefa because of Covid-19’s impact on the fixture calendar, has placed greater emphasis on the luck of the draw.
Yesterday’s ballot in Nyon duly delivered potentially tricky assignments on the road for the Scottish trio in Gibraltar, Norway and Northern Ireland, although each of them will feel they have a good chance of further progress.
Rangers will take on Lincoln Red Imps, the club who famously defeated Celtic in Brendan Rodgers’ first match in charge of the Parkhead side in 2016. That 1-0 loss at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar was overturned by a 3-0 win at Celtic Park in a Champions League second qualifying round tie but underlines the difficulties the artificial surface at the Gibraltar venue can present.
However, Rangers will be hot favourites to triumph at the ground where all senior matches in the British Overseas Territory are played.
Steven Gerrard’s men have recent experience of the Victoria Stadium, having beaten St Joseph’s of Gibraltar 4-0 there in the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round tie in July last year at the start of an excellent campaign in which the Ibrox side reached the last 16 of the competition.
Lincoln Red Imps now have a Brazilian coach, the former Benfica defender William, and last week defeated Union Titus of Luxembourg 2-0 in the first qualifying round. Lee Casciaro, the 38-year-old who scored the winner against Celtic, was among the goals. They were earlier awarded a 3-0 win over Prishtina in the preliminary round by Uefa after players from the Kosovar club tested positive for coronavirus.
Casciaro last night said that drawing Rangers was a “dream come true” for Lincoln and that knocking the Ibrox side out of the Europa League later this month would be an even bigger upset.
“It is a dream come true once again for us,” said the 38-year-old. “The Celtic game was a remarkable day for us. It was one of those days when everything went for us.
“We did a really good job and luckily got a goal and a result nobody would have thought would have happened. It was the highlight of my career.
“People still talk about my goal and now we have a game against Rangers, probably the talk will start that we can match what happened on that day. This time around it is a one-legged match and if we get a result here it would probably be the biggest upset because we would go through.”
Casciaro expects a tough test, though. “I believe that Steven Gerrard will be much more concentrated and focused on doing the job before he arrives, he will analyse us and put pressure on us,” he added.
“It will be harder than playing against Celtic because Rangers are six games into the league and will be fitter. When Celtic came over it was their first game of the season.”
Aberdeen, comfortable 6-0 winners over NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands at Pittodrie in the first qualifying round last week, can expect a stern test against Viking Stavanger.
However, Viking are currently struggling domestically where they sit tenth at the midway point of the Norwegian Eliteserien, only four points above the relegation zone.
Back in Europe for the first time since 2008-09, Viking are coached by former Norway defender Bjarne Berntsen.
Motherwell will make the short journey across the Irish Sea to face Coleraine. Stephen Robinson’s side are facing opponents from his homeland for the second tie in a row after their 5-1 win over Glentoran at Fir Park last week.
Coleraine, managed by former St Mirren boss Oran Kearney, beat La Fiorita of San Marino 1-0 in the preliminary round this season before recording a notable victory on penalties against Maribor in Slovenia last week.
The second qualifying round ties are scheduled to take place on Thursday 17 September.
Rangers, Aberdeen and Motherwell will all be included in the third qualifying round draw which takes place at noon today. They will be joined in the hat by Celtic who have missed out on being handed one of the two byes into the Europa League play-off round allocated to clubs dropping out of the Champions League second qualifying round.
Celtic will be seeded in the draw with the third qualifying round ties due to take place on Thursday 24 September.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.