Rangers Reaction: A tactical triumph which would have made Walter Smith smile; VAR controversy bemuses Morelos; memorable atmosphere soured slightly by some Dortmund fans

For Rangers supporters, it was a night for the ages at Ibrox on Thursday as the Scottish champions completed a remarkable 6-4 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League knockout round play-offs.

Rangers captain James Tavernier celebrates his second goal of the night at Ibrox as his team defeated Borussia Dortmund 6-4 on aggregate to reach the last 16 of the Europa League. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Rangers captain James Tavernier celebrates his second goal of the night at Ibrox as his team defeated Borussia Dortmund 6-4 on aggregate to reach the last 16 of the Europa League. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

A fitting tribute to a much-missed legend

On what would have been Walter Smith’s 74th birthday, this was a performance which would have earned the approval of the Rangers managerial great whose death last October was so painfully felt by everyone connected with the club.

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Smith would certainly have applauded the tactical insight of current boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst whose half-time switch in system and personnel, replacing Borna Barisic with Leon Balogun and moving to a back three which John Lundstram dropped into from midfield, altered the momentum of a tie which had seemed to be swinging clearly in Dortmund’s favour.

Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos is bemused as Spanish referee Antonio Lahoz wrongly rules out a Ryan Kent goal following a VAR check. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Rangers immediately looked more robust defensively, having been uncertain and too open in the first half as goals from the superb Jude Bellingham and lively Donyell Malan saw Dortmund recover from James Tavernier’s 22nd minute penalty kick.

The reboot of van Bronckhorst’s strategy also provided Rangers with better control in midfield and additional threat on the flanks with Calvin Bassey and Tavernier operating as wing-backs, their combination for the captain’s second goal of the night firmly nipping Dortmund’s revival in the bud.

A step too VAR

Rangers can be generally satisfied with the impact of VAR over the two legs of the tie, the TV review system having played a key role in two of their goals in the 4-2 win at the Westfalen Stadium last week.

Police officers had to move in to restore order among the travelling Borussia Dortmund fans before kick-off at Ibrox. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

But they were left bemused by its intervention at Ibrox as a 67th minute ‘goal’ from Ryan Kent was eventually ruled out by Spanish referee Antonio Lahoz after he was called upon to look at the pitchside monitor.

Alfredo Morelos was penalised for impeding Emre Can as he robbed the Dortmund player of possession before setting Kent up to score. It seems Lahoz was not shown the most compelling angles of the incident, in which Can clearly kicked the back of Morelos’ leg. Even if the Rangers striker did cut across Can’s path, the decision was incredibly harsh and seemed only to excuse the Dortmund man’s slackness and lack of awareness.

UEFA fine incoming for Dortmund

A pulsating atmosphere at Ibrox was helped by the noise and colour of 2800 Borussia Dortmund fans who complemented the thunderous backing Rangers received from the home support.

But there was a sour note struck before kick off by a section of the travelling punters who charged aggressively towards the Rangers fans in the Broomloan Road Stand, forcing police officers to step in and restore order. The use of flares among the Dortmund support will also have been noted by the UEFA delegate and Borussia can expect disciplinary action to be taken against them.

Player ratings

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor 7, Tavernier 9, Goldson 6, Bassey 8, Barisic 5 (Balogun 46 7); Jack 7, Lundstram 7; Arfield 6 (Kamara 69 5), Aribo 7, Kent 7; Morelos 7. Subs not used: McCrorie, McLaughlin, Diallo, Davis, Sands, Wright, Roofe, Sakala, King, Lowry.

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Kobel 6, Meunier 5 (Wolf 46 6), Can 5, Hummels 5, Schulz 6; Dahoud 7, Bellingham 8; Brandt 7 (Moukoko 69 6), Reus 6 (Witsel 86), Hazard 6 (Reinier 69 5); Malen 7 (Tigges 77). Subs not used: Unbehaun, Hitz, Guerreiro, Passlack, Pongracic.

Referee: Antonio Lahoz (Spain)

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