Rangers 2 Benfica 2: Steven Gerrard’s men forced to wait for knockout spot after throwing away two-goal lead

6 mins read

RANGERS will have to wait a little bit longer to confirm their Europa League last-32 qualification for a second successive season.

Steven Gerrard‘s side looked well on course to seal a vital win at Ibrox having gone up two goals to the good.

Willie Vass – The Sun

Pizzi scored a late equaliser to make Rangers wait for a last-32 spot[/caption]

PA:Press Association

Scott Arfield fired Rangers in front earlier in the game[/caption]

However, two late sucker punches from Benfica mean that both sides sit on eight points in Group D, with Lech Poznan in third on four.

Scott Arfield opened the scoring after just seven minutes to set Gerrard’s side on their way.

A tremendous Borna Barisic cross from the left was met by Kemar Roofe, whose header was saved before James Tavernier’s subsequent effort hit the bar and landed at the feet of Arfield.

The Canadian set himself and thumped the ball with his right foot into the net to make it advantage Gers.

While the Portuguese giants dominated possession, something the Light Blues are not used to, it was the Scottish league leaders who looked the more threatening.

They managed three shots on target, with Ryan Kent looking dangerous.

But Benfica did create two very good chances… first, Everton played a give-and-go with Alex Grimaldo when entering the Gers box.

He worked the ball onto his right foot but blazed over as Allan McGregor and Co breathed a sigh of relief.

Willie Vass – The Sun

Tavernier hit the bar with a header earlier in the game[/caption]

Then Rafa Silva looked certain to bag after taking a sensational touch round Leon Balogun, but the Nigerian recovered fantastically well to deflect his shot for a corner.

Into the second half and Benfica continued their pressure, but never properly tested McGregor despite having all the ball. Everton and Haris Seferovic has pops at goal, but neither player shot with any real conviction.

Just after the hour mark, the home side should’ve had a penalty. Kemar Roofe nicked the ball back from Grimaldo on the half way line and drove with pace towards the Benfica box.

The attacker attempted an early drilled cross to Kent, but his pass was blocked by ex-Spurs star Jan Vertonghen with what appeared to be his hand raised inside the box.

This would turn out to be a vital moment in the match.

Although, five minutes later on 69 minutes the Englishman produced a stunning finish to make it 2-0 to Rangers.

Kent slipped the ball into the on-form striker, who took a touch to get the ball out of his feet and hit a rasping shot into the roof of the net giving Helton Leite no chance in the Benfica goal.

PA:Press Association

Kemar Roofe’s thunderous strike[/caption]

The Portuguese giants did get themselves a goal though on 78-minutes, after the ball deflected in off Tavernier after McGregor produced a fine close-range save from Seferovic.

It made for a nervy ending to the game – which eventually cost Rangers.

Before Benfica equalised, Alfredo Morelos nearly made it 3-1 to Gerrard’s men after his shot cracked the bar after a save from Leite from his firce shot.

But more or less straight after this move, Benfica, through Pizzi levelled proceedings.

The Argentine was slipped in as he stood centrally in the box.

His brilliant quick feet evaded Balogun as he sent his shot way behind McGregor to make the score 2-2.

Rangers will be disappointed to have to settle for a point, but Benfica once again proved they’re a qualify outfit.

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