Managerless Rangers slip to Europa League defeat in Limassol

By Sports Desk October 05, 2023

Managerless Rangers’ season went from bad to worse with a 2-1 Europa League defeat by Aris Limassol in Cyprus.

Former Gers midfielder Steven Davis was asked to take over as boss on an interim basis after Michael Beale was dismissed at the weekend following the dismal 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen at Ibrox which left them seven points behind cinch Premiership leaders Celtic.

However, whatever plan Davis put in place for Europe did not work in a dreadful first-half performance which saw defender Alex Moucketou-Moussounda head the home side in front after just nine minutes.

Striker Shavy Babicka added a simple second goal in the 59th minute before Light Blues attacker Abdallah Sima pulled a goal back for the Ibrox men 10 minutes later but despite heavy pressure in the final stages the visitors could not complete the comeback.

Rangers beat Real Betis in their Group C opener but once again the players came up short.

The Light Blues travel to St Mirren on Sunday before the international break but this was a real setback in Europe with a double-header against Sparta Prague looming.

There had been some encouraging team news for the visitors in the build-up to the game with striker Kemar Roofe and midfielder Nico Raskin declared fit.

However, only the latter, who had missed four games with a knock, started with left-back Borna Barisic and attacker Scott Wright, sent off against Aberdeen, also coming into the first Gers team picked by Davis.

The Cypriot side, who claimed their first league title last season, were playing their first home game in the Europa League in an 11,000-capacity stadium which looked less than half-full with a pitch far from perfect.

Rangers, playing in a new mainly-red kit, looked disjointed and ill at ease from the start and there was no real surprise when they fell behind.

Jack Butland blocked a shot from Mihlali Mayambela for a corner which was taken short and when Leo Bengtsson crossed into the box from the right, Moucketou-Moussounda got away from Ibrox defender Connor Goldson to flick a header past the Gers keeper.

Moments later, after Barisic sloppily conceded possession, a quick Aris counter ended with Bengtsson clearing the Rangers bar from close range when he at least should have hit the target.

The rattled visitors battled back and Aris’s Brazilian keeper Vana comfortably saved an angled-drive from Sam Lammers and then Gers striker Cyriel Dessers had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside by the linesman, confirmed by a lengthy VAR check.

Vana saved a Sima header from a Barisic corner then the keeper collided with Dessers inside the box and required some treatment before continuing.

The home side claimed for a penalty just on the stroke of half-time when the ball appeared to hit Sima’s hand inside the box but a VAR check ruled in favour of the lacklustre Light Blues.

Mayembela started the second half by driving over from the edge of the box with the Gers defence again looking fragile.

When Sima’s shot was parried into the air by Vana in the 54th minute Dessers could not finish it off although he was offside.

The Cypriot side always looked dangerous on the break and Rangers fell further behind when Bengtsson left midfielder John Lundstram in his slip-stream down the left and crossed for Babicka to escape the attention of Ibrox defender Ben Davies and beat Butland with a confident finish.

In the 67th minute Davis brought on Roofe and Jose Cifuentes for Lammers and Raskin and there was a quick return when Sima headed in a Lundstram cross, which brought another VAR check but this time the goal stood.

Rangers had hope.

Moments later, however, a mistake by Davies inside his own box almost proved costly but Butland saved the drive from Aris substitute Aleksandr Kokorin at the expense of a corner which came to nothing.

Rangers pushed hard in the final stages for the equaliser but it was mostly in desperation and not even six minutes of added time could help salvage a point.

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