Alashkert 0-0 Rangers (0-1 agg): Ibrox club into Europa League group stages

Rangers defeated a Covid epidemic, oppressive heat and a 10-man Alashkert to secure a Europa League group stage spot for the fourth season in succession.
The Scottish champions may have been worried about an unpleasant evening with Steven Gerrard, their manager, and several other players not traveling to Yerevan.

However, they failed to increase their 1-0 advantage in the first leg. A goalless draw secured safe passage against their Armenian hosts. They were reduced to just 10 men for more that half of their contest.

Captain James Tavernier, goalkeepers Allan McGregor, Jon McLaughlin and forward Ryan Kent were all absentees. A redoubtable-looking Rangers looked rarely ruffled.

The Scottish champions hoarded ball in the first period and should have ended the tie much sooner.

Alfredo Morelos, the sole goal scorer in Thursday's first-leg victory, missed two great chances in the opening quarter and another in the last quarter.

After Rangers forced Alashkert to lose possession, the Colombian jabbed at Alashkert from 12 yards. Then, after rambling clear after Scott Arfield released him, he squirted straight at Ognjen Kancarevic.

His third sight of goal, Nathan Patterson's back-post volley, was cleared by the crossbar. The goalkeeper pushed him over for his fourth.

Cancarevic made another remarkable save to push Joe Aribo's effort onto an upright. The Nigerian also hit the bar at death as Rangers, under Gary McAllister's stewardship, attempted to openly discuss their assistant manager’s pre-match prediction for goals.

Although a breakthrough was never achieved, it didn't matter much considering how inexperienced Robby McCrorie was during his first Rangers appearance.

Jose Embalo was the third-choice goalkeeper. Jose Embalo made one solid save. The 23-year old's main involvement was in James Santos being dismissed in the second half.

Three minutes before, the Brazilian was booked for a foul against Aribo. McCrorie was then shown a second yellow card after McCrorie collected a ball into his box.

The already weak Alashkert was further weakened. The Armenians failed to score a single shot against the 10 men at Ibrox last Thursday and became passive once again.

Although they threatened occasionally, especially with the searching balls behind their full-backs' backs, they lacked the speed or deed required to fully open their visitors' eyes.

The Europa League groups will be subject to Stiffer testing, but for now Rangers can safely return to Scotland knowing that the first challenge on the field has been met.

Nathan Patterson is the man of the match

Captain James Tavernier was replaced by the Scotland international. The Scotland international was diligent defensively, and offered width in attack.

What we learned

Rangers managed to deal with the absences Tavernier, Kent and McGregor in style, but it is not clear if any of those players will be available for Sunday’s Old Firm derby.

The Covid epidemic has afflicted this squad, as evident by the number of young people sitting on the benches in Armenia. Is it possible for a group that is weakened to get up again for a derby.

McCrorie, what do you think? McCrorie was untested, although he kept a clean sheet. He will likely be tested against a Celtic team, who have scored many goals in recent games.

What's next?

Celtic will visit Ibrox on Sunday (12:00 BST), in the first Old Firm match of the season. Rangers can also look forward to Friday's Europa League group phase draw (11:00).