Rangers second best against Sparta Prague but hold on for a point

By Sports Desk October 26, 2023

Rangers played second fiddle to Sparta Prague for most of their Europa League clash in the Czech Republic before leaving with a point in a goalless draw.

Philippe Clement’s tenure as Gers boss began with a convincing 4-0 win over Hibernian at Ibrox on Saturday but he had to rely on keeper Jack Butland to keep the home side at bay in the first half of the Group C match in which the visitors lacked zip.

There was a marked improvement in the final 20 minutes where Brazilian substitute Danilo hit the bar but Sparta will wonder how they did not win this game early on.

Rangers beat Real Betis 1-0 at Ibrox on match day one before a shock 2-1 defeat by Aris Limassol in Cyprus and are now on four points ahead of Sparta Prague’s visit to Ibrox on November 9, albeit Clement’s focus will first turn to the visit of Hearts on Sunday.

The new Gers boss will have learned more about his players in Prague then he did against Hibs at the weekend and he may have to reassess the way forward.

With Borna Barisic and Dujon Sterling injured and former Gers boss Michael Beale not including Ridvan Yilmaz in the European squad, Clement had no  natural left-back available and had to call on the services of centre-back Ben Davies and change to a back-three with prolific attacker Abdallah Sima playing left wing-back, while Scott Wright made way for fully-fit Todd Cantwell.

The visitors struggled with the change of system.

The Czech champions showed their intent early on and Butland had to makes two great saves within seconds after the ever-dangerous Veljko Birmancevic waltzed into the Gers box to get a shot away before Qazim Laci latched on to the rebound.

Hard-working Sparta were quick and fluid and as they continued to probe the Gers rearguard Laci volleyed just inches wide from the edge of the box uin the 20th minute.

Rangers were offering almost nothing going forward.

When Ibrox midfielder Nico Raskin carelessly gave possession away at the edge of the box on the half-hour mark Butland was required to make another save from Laci’s drive, then Birmancevic hit the side netting with a close-range effort .

Still Sparta kept coming and when Butland parried a powerful drive from Matej Rynes, Gers midfielder John Lundstram got in front of Birmancevic to deny him a tap-in from six yards.

Lundstram’s wayward shot before the break was the only effort on goal from Rangers who needed a vast improvement in the second half.

Dessers had a half chance when Cantwell’s inadvertent pass came over his shoulder in the Sparta box but he was too slow to react and keeper Peter Vindahl gathered easily.

However, the Czech side remained much more dangerous.

In the 55th minute Davies headed away an effort from Martin Vitik two yards from goal then Sparta striker Jan Kuchta missed the target from close range.

Wright took over from Cantwell and in the 72nd minute, as Rangers began to edge forward more, he fired high over the bar from the edge of the box, before Danilo took over from the ineffective Cyriel Dessers.

Rangers at last began to play.

Soon afterwards Vindahl made a good save from a Sam Lammers drive and then tipped a Danilo shot on to the crossbar to ensure the spoils were shared.

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