Tavernier header sends Rangers into Champions League play-offs

James Tavernier’s header saw Rangers edge into the Champions League play-offs where they will face PSV Eindhoven for the second successive season.

A header from the captain salvaged a 1-1 second-leg draw and a narrow 3-2 aggregate win over Servette after a hard-fought game in Switzerland.

Rangers’ 2-1 lead from Ibrox was cancelled out by Dereck Kutesa’s wonderful strike as Michael Beale’s side struggled in the first half.

Danilo missed an unbelievable chance to equalise for the visitors, but they were much improved after the break and substitute Cyriel Dessers should have made the tie more comfortable.

The result sets Rangers up for a repeat of last year’s play-off against PSV Eindhoven as the Scottish Premiership runners-up bid for a second consecutive campaign in the group stages.

How Rangers kept their Champions League hopes alive

Rangers are through to the Champions League play-offs for the second successive season.
Rangers are through to the Champions League play-offs for the second successive season

Beale brought Connor Goldson and Ryan Jack back into the team after resting the pair for Saturday’s league win over Livingston and the Gers manager changed his formation from the team’s usual 4-3-3 to a midfield diamond spearheaded by Todd Cantwell. Danilo and Abdallah Sima started up front.

Rangers attacked in the early stages but Jose Cifuentes scuffed a left-footed effort from their first shooting chance.

The visitors were soon cut open by a slick move but Jack Butland made a brilliant stop at full stretch to deny Timothe Cognat.

Dereck Kutesa opened the scoring for Servette
Dereck Kutesa opened the scoring for Servette

The home side took the lead midway through the half. John Souttar came out second best from a challenge following a long ball and both Cifuentes and Tavernier were slow to react to the danger following a blocked shot. Kutesa had time and space to execute a glorious finish into the far top corner.

Team news

Rangers made three changes from their win over Livingston in the Scottish Premiership.

Michael Beale brought back Connor Goldson and Ryan Jack after they were rested on Saturday.

Abdallah Sima also came into the starting XI with
Leon Balogun, Cyriel Dessers and Sam Lammers dropping to the bench.

The unmarked Danilo had a brilliant chance to level on the half-hour mark but the Brazilian missed the target from inside the six-yard box following Cifuentes’ deep cross.

Servette could have gone ahead in the tie when Souttar was caught trying to play offside as Kutesa ran onto a through-ball from just inside his own half.

Danilo missed a brilliant chance to equalise for Rangers
Danilo missed a brilliant chance to equalise for Rangers

The goalscorer forced a good stop from Butland from a tight angle but he had a team-mate completely unmarked in the middle.

Rangers maintained their formation at the start of the second half but they showed more urgency and both Nicolas Raskin and Cantwell had efforts saved before Tavernier got in front of his marker and headed home from close range after Borna Barisic whipped in a dangerous cross.

James Tavernier scores to make it 1-1 against Servette
James Tavernier scores to make it 1-1 against Servette

Rangers looked comfortable and Raskin was wide from a half-chance before substitute Dessers missed two good opportunities. The Nigeria international headed over and then hit the post from eight yards after being set up by Cantwell.

Servette managed to exert some late pressure but Rangers stood firm and the hosts missed two decent chances in quick succession in stoppage time.

What’s next?

Rangers’ attention turns to the Scottish League Cup with a tie against Championship side Morton on Saturday.

They will then face PSV Eindhoven in their Champions League play-off, with the first leg at Ibrox on August 22.

Their next Scottish Premiership match is away to Ross County on August 26, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12.30pm.

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