Rangers 1-0 Alashkert: Alfredo Morelos strike gives 10-man Ibrox side narrow lead

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Ten-man Rangers avoided a draw at Alashkert, as Alfredo Morelos' strike kept them on track for the Europa League group stage.

In 2018, the Armenian champions were defeated 3-0 by a Celtic team who played 79 minutes without a man.

Rangers sent John Lundstram home just before the break.

However, Morelos' second goal at the European competition this season gives them a slight advantage over Yerevan.

The momentum from last season's first league title after 10 years, was at risk of being lost away and home to Malmo in Champions League qualifying and Dundee United for the Scottish Premiership.

However, Morelos's reliability on the continent stage places them in touch with the Europa League group stage for their fourth season rather than the less lucrative Conference League.

Both teams arrived at the game not only having suffered Champions League qualifying defeats, but also with losses in defense of their domestic league titles.

Despite Friday's 5-0 Scottish League Cup defeat of Dunfermline Athletic Rangers manager Steven Gerrard returned most his first choices to the fray.

Rangers had the first chances with Ianis Hagi firing wide, and Ryan Kent's shot chopping the crossbar.

Lundstram, a fellow midfielder, was however sent off shortly before the break with his second yellow card in a span of 10 minutes.

It could have turned the tide in favor of the side that needed an extra goal in order to defeat Wales' Connah's Quay Nomads in Champions League qualifying.

Scott Wright was introduced at half-time in Kent's place. Morelos was more involved in the game. Scott Wright had an overhead kick cleared in front of goal, and Morelos then hit a header just wide.

Morelos was cleared after captain James Tavernier's ball landed over the top of the defence.

Rangers should be confident going into Thursday's return leg, despite Alashkert's man advantage.

It is evident once again how important record European scorer Morelos has been. His win at Ibrox against a team that has only two wins in five home matches this season should have tilted the balance in favor of Morelos.

What's next?

Rangers will face Ross County, which is struggling in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday (14:00 BST).