Shkupi 0 - 0 Rangers (0-2 agg): Gerrard’s side safely through

Alfredo Moreloes tries to keep the ball in play during Rangers' 0-0 draw in Macedonia. Picture: SNS
Alfredo Moreloes tries to keep the ball in play during Rangers' 0-0 draw in Macedonia. Picture: SNS
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Rangers have progressed to the second round of Europa League qualifying after holding on to their 2-0 advantage from the first leg in their battle with Macedonian side Shkupi.

READ MORE - Five things we learned from Shkupi 0 - 0 Rangers

Rangers eased into the Europa League second qualifying round with a 2-0 aggregate win over Shkupi following a goalless draw in Macedonia.

Steven Gerrard’s side took a two-goal advantage into the second leg and enjoyed a mostly comfortable 90 minutes at the Philip II Arena.

The Govan club had more and better chances than their limited opponents and, although they failed to capitalise, they will simply be glad to get through to the next stage, where they play the winners of the tie between Petrocub of Moldova and Croatian side Osijek.

Two clean sheets will encourage Gerrard, but he will know improvement will be needed if his new charges are to make any sort of mark in this competition.

Skipper James Tavernier’s late penalty at Ibrox last Thursday had given the Light Blues some breathing space for the trip to Skopje, although in front of a sparse crowd the home side showed little indication that they could rescue the tie.

Indeed, amid some early Rangers attacks Jamie Murphy almost steered in an Alfredo Morelos delivery from out wide, before he just missed a cross from the right by Tavernier.

However, Rangers found themselves having to survive a brief spell of pressure from the home side during which goalkeeper Allan McGregor had to make saves from Blazhe Ilijoski and Kristijan Stojkovski.

Gers, with midfielder Ryan Jack in for the injured Scott Arfield, responded and in the 24th minute a driving run by Ibrox attacker Josh Windass ended with Shkupi keeper and captain Suat Zendeli pushing his shot to safety.

As the Light Blues regained control towards the end of the first half Morelos failed to control a Tavernier cross inside the box and another chance was gone.

There were more encouraging signs from the visitors at the start of the second half.

Another powerful right-footed drive from Windass drew a good save from Zendeli, with Morelos adjudged offside from the rebound.

Eighteen-year-old winger Glenn Middleton replaced Windass soon afterwards and, as Rangers appeared to strengthen their grip on the tie, Zendeli punched away a Tavernier free-kick from 25 yards.

In the 72nd minute Ovie Ejaria, on loan from Liverpool, came on for Daniel Candeias and seconds later set up Middleton with a fine through-ball, but the teenager hit the side-netting with his drive from 12 yards.

Rangers were mostly in control in the final stages, although with two minutes remaining only a fine stop from McGregor to thwart the on-rushing Muarem Muarem ensured there would be no nervy ending.

READ MORE - Steven Gerrard worried about Rangers’ lack of quality in final third