Kemar Roofe nets late goal to send Rangers into Europa League knockout stages

By Sports Desk December 14, 2023

Kemar Roofe’s late goal earned Rangers a memorable 3-2 win against Real Betis to send the Light Blues into the Europa League knockout stages.

Roofe turned the ball home from close range as Rangers put the pressure on from a 78th-minute corner to clinch top spot in Group C.

The Light Blues inflicted a first home defeat of the season on the Spaniards in Seville as Roofe’s second goal of the season saw them jump above Sparta Prague from third place and send Betis into the Conference League.

Abdallah Sima and Cyriel Dessers had each put Rangers ahead in a thrilling first half but Betis were level before the break and had chances to go ahead only to slip from top spot to third.

Sparta won 3-1 against Aris Limassol to put pressure on Rangers and ultimately go through themselves as the Ibrox side did it the hard way, finishing on 11 points despite dropping five against the Cypriots.

Sima had already seen a half-chance diverted wide before opening the scoring in the 10th minute. James Tavernier and then Ross McCausland drove down the right and Dessers helped the ball on for Sima to fire into the bottom corner from 16 yards.

The lead only lasted four minutes. Juan Miranda had put a dangerous ball across the face of goal moments earlier but McCausland did not heed the warning and failed to track the left-back’s forward run. Miranda burst on to a deft flick from Borja Iglesias and drilled the ball inside the far post.

Rangers survived a torrent of pressure as Betis looked to build on their equaliser. Ben Davies produced a vital block,  Andres Guardado hit the underside of the crossbar and Jack Butland tipped over Hector Bellerin’s strike.

Rangers withstood the pressure and regained the lead in the 20th minute, seconds after taking a throw-in inside their own half. Dessers headed inside for Jose Cifuentes and ran on to the return ball down the left wing.

The Nigeria international went a long way to winning over the Gers fans following a slow start to his Ibrox career when he beat his man and slipped the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs.

This time the lead lasted 17 minutes. Rangers were on the back foot after an attacking move broke down but they had plenty of men back, however Tavernier was slow to spot the danger as Ayoze Perez loitered with intent outside the right-back.

The former Newcastle and Leicester striker curled an inch-perfect first-time shot just inside the far post after being set up by Isco.

Sima and Dessers threatened before the break but Rangers – with Dujon Sterling on for Cifuentes – faced pressure at the start of the second period as Betis twice threatened from set-pieces. Assane Diao headed against the crossbar and Marc Roca miscontrolled the ball inside the six-yard box, allowing Butland to block.

Sam Lammers briefly looked like going clear on goal after dribbling past two players but he seemed to go down easily after being tripped just outside the box and Borna Barisic’s free-kick was blocked.

Rangers had another nervy moment waiting on the VAR verdict when Perez had a goal disallowed for handball after bundling home a rebound.

It was Rangers who struck from similar range moments later.

The Light Blues generally managed the latter stages well until late in stoppage-time when substitute Rabbi Matondo in particular showed naivety in shooting from long range, however Butland scrambled to stop Willian Jose’s header creeping in.

The final whistle soon sounded to continue Rangers’ promising run under recently-appointed manager Philippe Clement, who could now get his hands on his first piece of silverware in Scotland after Sunday’s Viaplay Cup final against Aberdeen.

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