Niko Kranjcar curled in a stunning free-kick to earn Rangers a draw with Marseille at Ibrox, a matter of days after being asked to leave the pitch in a low-key friendly with St Johnstone.
The Croatian’s competitive spirit was on display at Murray Park during the week, with Europa League elimination still in his mind, as he snapped at the referee. However, against the French giants he made a name for himself with the club’s goal and an all-round fine performance playing from the left in a 4-4-2.
New additions Graham Dorrans and Bruno Alves took their place in the line-up against a strong Marseille side which included Dmitri Payet, Patrice Evra and Florient Thauvin.
Rangers started as if they meant business, as if they felt they owed something, anything, to the fans after European humiliation. Daniel Candeias, who was impressive throughout, showed his intentions with a dangerous ball into the opposition’s box. It led to a sustained period of possession without anything meaningful transpiring, a Dorrans shot off target the closest to a goal.
The home crowd were enjoying a stellar performance from Portuguese veteran Alves in the middle of defence. Anything Marseille, who lost Evra through injury after a nasty challenge earned Dorrans a booking, threw at Rangers it was repelled.
Both James Tavernier and Dorrans had efforts towards the end of the half but both were thwarted.
Rangers made a double sub three minutes shy of the hour mark as Alfredo Morelos and Danny Wilson replaced Eduardo Herrera and Alves respectively. The Colombian forward almost made an instant impact with the best chance of the match. He ran through on goal, his shot from 20 yards pushed back to him by former Crystal Palace goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. The Frenchman redeemed himself with a fine save to deny the striker.
Moments later, with one of their first real forays into Rangers final third, Marseille were ahead. Morgan Sanson sent a cross towards the back post where it found Valere Germain, who won Ligue 1 with Monaco last season, took the ball under control, held off Wilson and netted.
It was unjust to the home side. But they responded. Kranjcar was fouled 25 yards from goal, and he himself stepped up and curled the ball past Mandanda.
Rangers suffered a late scare when Gregory Sertic passed up an opportunity, and held on to a deserved draw after a better performance.