Rangers revitalised by one man - equaliser could be so important in quest for progression

Rangers kept their Europa League fate in their own hands as the welcome return to action of Ryan Kent sparked the revival which saw them come from behind to claim a point against Brondby in Denmark.

Rangers captain James Tavernier (right) closes down Brondby striker Mikael Uhre during the Europa League match in Denmark. (Photo by MARTIN SYLVEST/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
Rangers captain James Tavernier (right) closes down Brondby striker Mikael Uhre during the Europa League match in Denmark. (Photo by MARTIN SYLVEST/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

Having missed the Scottish champions’ last 10 games because of a hamstring injury, winger Kent’s lively appearance as a second half substitute was pivotal in revitalising a Rangers side who looked to be heading for a first ever defeat against Danish opposition.

For the 10th time this season, Steven Gerrard’s men had conceded the first goal in a match. They were very much the masters of their own downfall this time as Leon Balogun, who had scored in the 2-0 win over Brondby at Ibrox two weeks earlier, put through his own goal in the final minute of the first half.

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With Rangers lacking in ideas and imagination as they looked to respond after the break, Gerrard decided upon a piece of proactive management with a triple substitution which included the arrival of Kent and Ianis Hagi.

Rangers winger Ryan Kent takes on Brondby's Josip Radosevic during the Europa League match in Denmark. (Photo by MARTIN SYLVEST/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

It was those two who combined for the 77th minute leveller, superbly taken by Hagi, which leaves Rangers third in Group A but now level on points with second-placed Sparta Prague who are the visitors to Ibrox on November 25. It’s a fixture which will go a long way to deciding if Gerrard’s men can reach the knockout phase of the tournament for a fourth consecutive season.

Balogun’s horrible misjudgement in the final piece of action before the interval simply compounded the frustration of an opening 45 minutes in which Rangers had scorned the better chances to make the breakthrough.

They thought they had done so as early as the sixth minute when Alfredo Morelos headed home a James Tavernier corner but their celebrations were cut short by an assistant referee’s flag indicating the Rangers captain’s delivery had curled out and then back into play. A VAR check confirmed that assessment.

Morelos then did well to set up another sight of goal for himself when he controlled Borna Barisic’s cross from the left but he scuffed his shot well off target.

Rangers striker Fashion Sakala had a frustrating night in Denmark before being replaced in the second half of the Europa League match against Brondby. (Photo by MARTIN SYLVEST/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

The promising early signs for Rangers continued when Steven Davis and Joe Aribo combined to send Fashion Sakala racing clear through the inside right channel, the striker dragging his shot narrowly wide of Mads Hermansen’s right hand post.

Although Brondby gradually began to enjoy the greater share of possession, the visitors continued to look more threatening and Morelos came close in the 23rd minute when his low shot from the edge of the box flew a couple of inches wide.

The hosts were struggling to create any clear-cut openings of their own, although there was a lucky break for Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor when he mishit a clearance straight at Brondby striker Mikael Uhre. Fortunately for Rangers, the ball spun to safety rather than into the empty net.

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While Rangers continued to look dangerous from set pieces - Aribo headed over from a Tavernier free-kick before Connor Goldson met a Barisic corner with a header which was blocked by Sigurd Rosted - it was Brondby who made one count in the 45th minute.

Josip Radosevic’s previous corners had been dealt with fairly comfortably by the Rangers defence but this time the Croatian’s delivery caused all kinds of uncertainty.

Christian Cappis stole a yard on his marker Morelos to flick the ball on at the near post. Balogun should have been able to cut out the danger but the big Nigerian international got it all wrong as he headed the ball straight into his own net.

A sluggish start to the second half from Rangers saw them almost fall further behind from another corner, the ball breaking to Kevin Tshiembe whose netbound shot was blocked by Scott Arfield.

Gerrard had seen enough and decided on that triple change in the 56th minute with Kent, Hagi and Kemar Roofe all entering the fray.

There was an instant lift in the pace and purpose of Rangers’ performance. Hermansen had to sprint from his line to deny Roofe when he was played in by Hagi, then Kent saw a shot deflected behind.

The changed dynamic saw Brondby forced to sit deeper in defence of their advantage and Gerrard’s changes paid a dividend with the 77th minute equaliser.

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Kent’s perfectly weighted pass allowed Hagi to time his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and the Romanian displayed admirable composure and precision as he guided a right foot shot across Hermansen into the corner of the net.

Rangers looked the likelier side to grab a winner in the closing stages with Kent’s fine contribution auguring well for the improvement he should bring to the team in the coming weeks and months.

They came agonisingly close in stoppage time when Aribo saw a shot deflected wide for a corner which Tavernier swung in from the left. Calvin Bassey, on for Barisic, headed back across the six yard box to Roofe but the English striker was unable to direct the ball on target from an awkward position.

Brondby (3-5-2): Hermansen, Rosted, Maxso, Tshiembe; Bruus (Riveros 63), Cappis (Slimane 63), Radosevic, Frendrup, Mensah; Uhre (Greve 75), Hedlund (Pavlovic 85). Subs not used: Mikkelsen, Gammelby, Heggheim, Fallenius, Divkovic, Hendriksen, Singh, Borkeeiet.

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic (Bassey 81); Arfield (Hagi 56), Davis (Bacuna 72), Kamara; Aribo, Morelos (Roofe 56), Sakala (Kent 56). Subs not used: McCrorie, McLaughlin, Lundstram, Patterson, Wright, Kelly.

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