Maribor 0 Rangers 0: Gerrard's men book play-off berth with calm clean sheet

By Sports Desk August 16, 2018

Rangers are one step away from the Europa League group stage after a 0-0 second-leg draw sealed a 3-1 aggregate victory over Maribor in the third qualifying round.

Buoyed by last week's vital home win, the Scottish side only needed a stalemate to advance and achieved that feat with only the minor scare of a late penalty Maribor penalty to sew up a play-off round date with Russian side Ufa.

An impressive performance from veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor ensured even the late concern did not develop into any threat of a shock as he kept out Marcos Tavares' stoppage time spot-kick.

The visitors had been pinned back on the edge of their own area for much of the first 25 minutes, albeit without major incident.

An offside flag spared Alfredo Morelos from embarrassment when he spooned James Tavernier's cross over the bar with what was to be one of few Rangers chances in a tight contest.

That came prior to a smart pair of McGregor saves late in the first half, the 36-year-old first denying Amir Dervisevic and then holding a meek Blaz Vrhovec attempt.

The former Hull City man was called into action again with 20 minutes remaining as he brilliantly blocked Tavares' close-range effort.

And the Maribor forward was to be frustrated once more in the first minute of added time as he failed to claw back a goal from the spot.

In the end a clean sheet was all Gerrard's men needed to advance through to the final qualifying hurdle and move within touching distance of a first group stage appearance in European competition since the 2010-11 Champions League campaign.

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    Raheem Sterling urged UEFA to take "a proper stance" against racism by issuing Montenegro with a stadium ban after he and England team-mate Danny Rose were allegedly targeted by monkey chants in Podgorica on Monday.

    England ran out impressive 5-1 winners in the Euro 2020 qualifier, but the match was overshadowed by apparent racist abuse, with Sterling appearing to react while celebrating the fifth goal.

    Manager Gareth Southgate claimed Rose was targeted after picking up a yellow card in second-half stoppage time, while Callum Hudson-Odoi said he heard "monkey stuff".

    UEFA has often been accused of not punishing incidents of racist abuse harshly enough, and Sterling was mindful of that when demanding European football's governing body comes down hard on Montenegro.

    When asked by Sky Sports if a stadium ban should be issued, Sterling said: "Yeah, it's got to be something that serious for them and make them think twice about ever doing something like that again.

    "I can only, we can only, the FA can only do so much. We've got to leave this to the people in charge to make a proper stance on it.

    "Just banning one or two people is not going to change anything, you've got to make [an example] – even if it was our fans, I'd be saying the same thing.

    "The people in charge need to actually do it [punish] as a whole, the whole [of the] Montenegro fans. I don't know, I'm not the one who makes the rules, but they've got to do something that makes a real stance.

    "It's 2019 now, I keep saying it. It's a shame to see this still going on. We can only bring awareness to the situation.

    "It's now time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it. You can fine someone, but what's that going to do?

    "You've got to make it harder, you've got to punish the whole [group of] fans, [so] that [they] can't come to the ground.

    "You've got to do something to really make them think twice, because if their team can't play with fans, it means it's going to be difficult for them, so it's got to be something to make them think twice about."

  • We are equal – Hudson-Odoi slams 'monkey' chants We are equal – Hudson-Odoi slams 'monkey' chants

    Callum Hudson-Odoi described "monkey" chants by Montenegro supporters as "unacceptable" and hopes that UEFA will deal with it following England's Euro 2020 qualifier.

    Gareth Southgate's side ran out 5-1 winners, but alleged racist abuse directed at England players towards the end of the Group A contest threatens to overshadow Monday's match, with Raheem Sterling appearing to react to the chants while celebrating the fifth goal.

    Proceedings got feisty late on in Podgorica as Danny Rose was booked for a heavy challenge, and it was then that reporters in the stadium claimed abuse was aimed at the Tottenham full-back.

    Chelsea forward Hudson-Odoi – making his first start for the Three Lions – confirmed he heard "monkey stuff" from the stands and the 18-year-old hopes robust action will be taken.

    "I don't think discrimination should be anywhere, we are equal," Hudson-Odoi told beIN Sports.

    "We have to play a fair game and enjoy the moment, but when you're hearing stuff like that from the fans, it's not right, it's unacceptable. Hopefully UEFA deal with it properly.

    "When I went over there, me and Rose heard it, they were saying: 'oohh ah ah', monkey stuff. We have to keep our heads, have a strong mentality.

    "Hopefully Rose is okay, and we'll have a chat about what happened, but he's got a strong mentality, he's a strong guy, and hopefully UEFA deal with it. It's not right at all.

    "Raheem always helped, he's been talking to me about it, saying: 'listen, don't worry about it, it's football, people do it, it's not right, but you've got to stay strong'.

    "I've spoken to him and Rose about it at the same time, and they said that in football you always get things like that, people will always be rude, say things you don't want to hear.

    "Sometimes you've got to block it out of your heads, but it should not happen in football. It's unacceptable."

  • Barkley hails England's character after resounding win Barkley hails England's character after resounding win

    Two-goal Ross Barkley praised England's character after they came from behind to thrash Montenegro 5-1 in Podgorica on Monday.

    Marko Vesovic's well-taken opener had put the hosts ahead early on, but Barkley set up Michael Keane for the equaliser before scoring twice to put the game beyond their opponents.

    Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling added gloss to the scoreline late on and Barkley was impressed with how the Three Lions responded to the early setback to make it two wins from two in Euro 2020 qualifying Group A.

    "Montenegro was always going to be a hard test but we showed character to come back and put in a positive performance," he told ITV. "It was a great night for myself."

    Callum Hudson-Odoi, making his first start for Gareth Southgate's side, echoed Barkley's sentiments.

    "Hopefully I did well, it is not about me, it is a team performance," he said.

    "We had a great mentality from the start, going down was disappointing but we got back into it.

    "I reacted slow to the ball and they scored from it. We have to react positively and keep going."

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