Sparta Prague 1-0 Rangers: Hancko header leaves Gerrard's side without a point

By Sports Desk September 30, 2021

Ten-man Rangers fell to a second straight defeat to begin their Europa League campaign as they went down 1-0 to Sparta Prague at Generali Arena. 

The Gers went unbeaten on their travels in this competition last season but failed to respond in the Czech capital on Thursday after David Hancko headed Sparta into a first-half lead. 

Jakub Pesek missed an open goal early in the second period but Rangers, who lost 2-0 to Lyon in their opening game, had Glen Kamara sent off 16 minutes from time and were unable to get off the mark in Group A. 

The defeat leaves Steven Gerrard's side bottom of the standings, six points off leaders Lyon – who beat Brondby 3-0 – and four adrift of Sparta in the other qualification spot. 

Sparta's stalemate with Brondby two weeks ago had the lowest expected goals (0.8) of any matchday-one fixture, but Pesek and Martin Minchev forced Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor into a couple of good saves inside the opening 25 minutes. 

Hancko found a way through for Sparta soon after with a flicked header that went in off the far post despite McGregor's attempt to claw the ball away before it was awarded by goal-line technology. 

The hosts wasted a huge chance to double their tally 22 seconds into the second half when Adam Hlozek broke free and teed up Pesek for what looked like being a simple finish, only for the winger to blast the ball against the crossbar with the goal gaping. 

After surviving a scare less than a minute later when Fashion Sakala's close-range finish was ruled out for offside, Sparta were again denied by McGregor as he used his feet to keep out Lukas Haraslin from a one-on-one. 

That ensured Rangers still had some hope of at least snatching a point, but Kamara was shown a second yellow for a raised arm on Michal Sacek and they were unable to muster any further clear-cut openings. 

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