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Rangers out of Europe after defeat by Benfica

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Rafa Silva’s composed finish consigned Rangers to a Europa League last-16 exit

Rangers’ Europa League campaign crashed to an end as Rafa Silva’s breakaway goal sent Benfica into the quarter-finals after another thrilling encounter at Ibrox.

Silva raced on to Angel di Maria’s second-half knockdown to cut across Mohamed Diomande and fire past Jack Butland, with Rangers badly exposed from their own corner.

The strike was initially ruled offside before a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review determined the Portuguese had just stayed inside his own half before showing exquisite execution to silence a raucous stadium.

Rangers failed to muster a real fightback as Roger Schmidt’s side managed the game well to secure progression.

Ibrox was an absolute wall of noise before kick-off. The anticipation of the potential of another Europa League quarter-final, what would have been their second in three seasons, had whipped up Rangers fans.

A captivating spectacle ensued between two sides who seemed evenly matched for the most part, certainly until the 66th-minute goal.

Benfica were first to show their teeth in terms of opportunities. Rafa Silva broke from a Rangers corner that left them exposed. That would become a theme, an ultimately decisive one. His whipped low cross was begging to be buried but evaded the incoming Marcos Leonardo.

Rangers began to utilise their home advantage, controlling the ball well, but were nearly caught again when David Neres cut back, Di Maria swiped and Leonardo could not direct his header on goal.

Di Maria then had all the space in the world, again from a Rangers corner, down the right and tried to bend the ball into Leonardo but was just off with his accuracy. Would Rangers learn? No.

John Lundstram, so influential of late, gifted the chance of the half when he appeared to change his mind at the vital moment. Di Maria gathered and squared the ball across goal but somehow it trundled behind to the relief of the home support.

Rangers struggled to create clear-cut chances. Cyriel Dessers was on the end of one early in the second half but seemed to hesitate slightly and a wonderful opportunity deflected wide.

A similar result followed when James Tavernier crossed towards Dessers but the defender beat him – and nearly his own goalkeeper – as the ball rolled agonisingly wide.

Another Rangers corner left them undone on the counter again. Rafa Silva fed Fredrik Aursnes, who played it to substitute Casper Tengstedt. The striker had to score, but shot straight at Butland.

However, Benfica were not to be denied. Silva capitalised, by the narrowest of offside margins, to decide the tie.

From then on, they limited Rangers, while coming close to adding to their lead at the other end.

Player of the match – Rafa Silva (Benfica)

Rafa Silva of Benfica
Rafa Silva for his brilliant and decisive execution for the goal gets the nod. Special mention, though, to Rangers defender John Souttar, who is doing his Scotland credentials no harm before Euro 2024. He was solid, read the game superbly and sparked the odd counter with incisive passing

Benfica quality counts as Rangers fail to reach their best – analysis

Rangers matched Benfica in Lisbon and did so again in front of a raucous home crowd until conceding the decider.

From there, they just could not find a response. Substitutes were unable to make an impact. Perhaps Philippe Clement’s side ran out of steam given the demands of their schedule and injuries they have endured.

In Benfica, they met a side who have real quality. That, eventually, showed and decided who would progress.

The one question mark centres on why Rangers persisted in leaving themselves so exposed when they had a corner kick. Time and again they were almost caught and then eventually they were.

That aside, it has been another impressive Europa League campaign in which they have shown real quality against some top sides. That they were roundly applauded at the end speaks to that. Tonight, they didn’t quite reach those levels and paid for it.

Their focus is back on domestic silverware and they remain in a strong position to add to their League Cup success.

What they said

Rangers manager Philippe Clement: “I think it was a close tie but I am proud of what my players showed. We played a better game on the ball than what we showed in Lisbon.

“You need to be on your toes to compete with these teams that have a much bigger budget. Everybody did that, everybody raised their level. You need to take the moments and we didn’t take ours enough.”

Match stats

  • All of Benfica’s last four goals in the Europa League have either been scored (3) or assisted (1) by Ángel di Maria. His assist tonight for Rafa Silva’s goal was his 13th goal involvement in the competition for Benfica, with only Oscar Cardozo providing more goal contributions than him for the club (21) since the Europa League’s rebranding in 2009-10.
  • Benfica are the first Portuguese team to beat Rangers at Ibrox in European competition. The Glasgow outfit had previously gone 11 unbeaten at home against Portuguese opposition, winning eight and drawing three.
  • Rangers have now lost back-to-back matches at Ibrox across all competitions for the first time since March 2020 under Steven Gerrard. Since then, they had played 110 games without suffering consecutive home defeats.
  • Tonight’s victory was Benfica’s first on the road in the Europa League since October 2020, after failing to win any of their previous four (D3 L1). It was also their first away win in the knockout stages of the competition since February 2019, having lost four of their last five before tonight (D1).
  • Rafa Silva has now scored three away goals in his last four European away matches, as many goals as he managed in his previous 27 away games in Europe across spells with Braga and Benfica.
  • Rangers failed to score in a home game across all competitions for only the second time in their last 46 matches (also v Celtic in September 2023). They had scored in each of their last 19 matches at Ibrox before tonight.

What’s next?

Rangers head to Dens Park to face Dundee (12:00 GMT) on Sunday in their final Scottish Premiership fixture before the international break.

Line-ups

Rangers

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Butland
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6GoldsonBooked at 55mins
  • 5Souttar
  • 3Yilmaz
  • 42DiomandeSubstituted forRaskinat 85′minutes
  • 4Lundstram
  • 23WrightSubstituted forMatondoat 73′minutes
  • 11LawrenceSubstituted forCantwellat 73′minutes
  • 7Fábio Silva
  • 9DessersSubstituted forRoofeat 77′minutes

Substitutes

  • 13Cantwell
  • 17Matondo
  • 25Roofe
  • 26Davies
  • 28McCrorie
  • 31Barisic
  • 38King
  • 43Raskin
  • 45McCausland
  • 46Yfeko
  • 47Fraser
  • 93McKinnon

Benfica

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Trubin
  • 6Bah
  • 4António Silva
  • 30Otamendi
  • 8Aursnes
  • 87Gonçalves Neves
  • 61Morris Luís
  • 11Di MaríaSubstituted forJoão Márioat 90′minutes
  • 27Fernandes Ferreira da SilvaSubstituted forAntunes Gouveiaat 90+2′minutes
  • 7Neres CamposSubstituted forKökçüat 65′minutes
  • 36Santos AlmeidaSubstituted forTengstedtat 45′minutesBooked at 90mins

Substitutes

  • 3Fernández
  • 5Rodrigues da Silva
  • 9Mendonça Cabral
  • 10Kökçü
  • 19Tengstedt
  • 20João Mário
  • 24Jumpe Soares
  • 32Rollheiser
  • 44Lemos Araújo
  • 45Kokubo
  • 47Antunes Gouveia

Referee:
Ivan Kruzliak

Attendance:
49,943

Live Text

Player of the match

RafaRafa

Rangers

  1. Squad number1Player nameButland

  2. Squad number5Player nameSouttar

  3. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

  4. Squad number11Player nameLawrence

  5. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

  6. Squad number3Player nameYilmaz

  7. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

  8. Squad number23Player nameWright

  9. Squad number7Player nameFábio Silva

  10. Squad number42Player nameDiomande

  11. Squad number13Player nameCantwell

  12. Squad number9Player nameDessers

  13. Squad number17Player nameMatondo

  14. Squad number43Player nameRaskin

  15. Squad number25Player nameRoofe

Benfica

  1. Squad number27Player nameRafa

  2. Squad number7Player nameDavid Neres

  3. Squad number20Player nameJoão Mário

  4. Squad number4Player nameAntónio Silva

  5. Squad number10Player nameKökçü

  6. Squad number47Player nameTiago Gouveia

  7. Squad number87Player nameJoão Neves

  8. Squad number30Player nameOtamendi

  9. Squad number19Player nameTengstedt

  10. Squad number11Player nameDi María

  11. Squad number61Player nameFlorentino

  12. Squad number8Player nameAursnes

  13. Squad number6Player nameBah

  14. Squad number1Player nameTrubin

  15. Squad number36Player nameMarcos Leonardo

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