Radiant Rangers shine in Seville as Europa League love-affair continues - Roofe raised, Dessers' big moment, no unlucky 13

The Ibrox club are into the last 16 following best triumph of Clement’s reign

Rangers clinched their place in the last 16 of the Europa League with a landmark 3-2 win over Real Betis in Seville to top Group C that is surely their best victory under the fledgling stewardship of manager Philippe Clement.

There was to be no unlucky match No 13 for Clement as Rangers boss, who can look at his record since arriving at Ibrox in October with much satisfaction: ten wins, three draws, European progress and the potential to win a trophy on Sunday when his team take on Aberdeen in the Viaplay Cup final. This triumph was achieved in the face of adversity, with a number of first-team players missing. Rangers’ bench was full of kids but it was one of the few senior players in Kemar Roofe who stepped off it to score the winner.

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What is it about Rangers and the Europa League? The 2022 finalists love drama in this competition. In the city that delivered so much heartache to them against Eintracht Frankfurt two seasons ago, they led three times against a team that held Real Madrid here last weekend. Winning the group means they advance past the play-off round and will next compete as a seeded team in March. Sparta Prague, 3-1 winners at Aris Limassol, finished second, with Betis consigned to the Europa Conference League.

Kemar Roofe wheels away to celebrate Rangers' winner against Real Betis.Kemar Roofe wheels away to celebrate Rangers' winner against Real Betis.
Kemar Roofe wheels away to celebrate Rangers' winner against Real Betis.

It was a breathless start at the Estadio Benito Villamarín. These two played out a cagey first half in their first meeting in Glasgow but we had four goals inside the first 27 minutes. The opener came Rangers’ way on ten minutes through Abdallah Sima, their most prolific forward. Ross McCausland slipped a low pass into Cyriel Dessers, who laid the ball into the path of Sima. The Senegalese coolly stroked the ball past Betis keeper Rui Silva to give the visitors a precious lead.

The early advantage was frittered away four minutes later. Borja Iglesias played in full-back Juan Miranda, who too easily ran away from McCausland. His low shot was laced with power and flew under Jack Butland to restore parity. The keeper then had to look smart to tip over a Hector Bellerin drive, before Andres Guardado rocked the Rangers bar with a thunderous effort.

Rangers got themselves off the canvas, however, on 20 minutes. Jose Cifuentes found Dessers with a smart reverse pass and the Nigerian drove into the box, cut inside and then nutmegged Silva with a composed finish. It was his best moment in a Rangers shirt so far.

With Sparta Prague already three goals to the good in Cyprus against Aris Limassol, Betis knew they could not afford to lose. With 37 minutes on the clock, they equalised again. Isco was the architect, driving towards the Rangers rearguard and finding Ayoze Perez, whose first-time precise finish left Butland helpless. A manic first half ended 2-2.

Cyriel Dessers was among the scorers on a fine night in Seville.Cyriel Dessers was among the scorers on a fine night in Seville.
Cyriel Dessers was among the scorers on a fine night in Seville.

The second half did not have the same tempo. The cagier affair suited Rangers and they took the lead for a third time on 78 minutes. Ben Davies’ corner made its way to the back post and Connor Goldson’s cutback was forced towards goal by substitute Rabbi Matondo. Fellow replacement Roofe reacted quickest to pounce on the loose ball and forced it past Silva. It was a huge moment for the Ibrox club, the first time they have ever beaten a Spanish team on Iberian soil and the first loss for Betis at home this season. More than 3,000 Rangers fans partied long into the Andalusian night.