Sporting Braga 0-1 Rangers (2-4 agg): Gerrard’s side reach Europa League last 16

Rangers backed up last week’s stunning comeback by producing a poised performance to dump Braga out of the Europa League and reach the last 16.

Ryan Kent’s calm, breakaway finish coupled with a strong defensive display means the Ibrox side are in the last 16 in European competition for the first time since 2011.

It might have been more comfortable had Ianis Hagi not had a first-half penalty saved and Scott Arfield’s late attempt from close range not been correctly ruled out for offside.

But few would have given Steven Gerrard’s side a hope of progressing against the Europa League’s top scorers, having been 2-0 down after an hour of the home leg.

Kent’s strike, though, ensured a 4-2 aggregate victory and means Rangers can look forward with excitement to Friday’s draw at 12:00 GMT in Nyon.

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Master counter-attackers solve defensive woes

Rangers should have been out of sight by the interval but had to wait until an hour in before grabbing the goal that ultimately assured their progress.

They had been defending progressively deeper as Braga began to exert pressure, but Hagi’s ball over the top released Kent to race through and fire low past Matheus, in off the far post. It was a counter-attacking masterclass and no more than Rangers deserved, having spurned three glorious first-half chances.

Braga’s high defensive line was ripe to be exploited and Rangers picked a hole in it early on. Kent threaded through for Arfield, who bore down on goal before slipping a pass to Florian Kamberi. The striker looked tentative as he struck it and Matheus was able to beat the shot away.

Kent then had an equally gilt-edged opportunity to put Rangers ahead but he dragged his shot wide of the far post from Hagi’s pull-back.

Braga were enjoying plenty of possession, particularly in the wide areas, and that looked their most likely route to goal. Twice Nuno Sequeira delivered from the left and twice Paulinho went close – the first header tipped over the bar by Allan McGregor.

But then came Rangers’ biggest chance as Raul Silva was penalised for handling Kent’s corner – a decision verified by VAR. Hagi, the hero of the first leg, struck the penalty firmly but Matheus threw up his left arm as he dived to his right and kept his team level on the night.

The huge travelling support may have feared those misses would come back to haunt them but Kent’s strike settled them.

Rangers’ defensive frailties have been exposed domestically this year but they showed a determination and organisation here that have deserted them of late.

Paulinho had one more header, this time off the outside of McGregor’s left-hand post, but Rangers held firm to take their place in the last 16.

Man of the match – George Edmundson (Rangers)

Put into the centre of the Rangers defence in place of the beleaguered Nikola Katic, Edmundson was a colossus as he repaid his manager’s faith in him.

The entire back four was solid and the midfield trio of Ryan Jack, Steven Davis and Arfield did a power of closing-down to suffocate Braga’s creative forces.

But Edmundson’s commanding presence alongside Connor Goldson was the bedrock upon which the victory was built.

Line-ups

Sporting Braga

Substitutes

Rangers

Substitutes

Match Stats

Live Text

Match ends, Sporting Braga 0, Rangers 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Sporting Braga 0, Rangers 1.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by Scott Arfield.

Booking

Abel Ruiz (Sporting Braga) is shown the yellow card.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by Allan McGregor.

Offside, Rangers. Ryan Jack tries a through ball, but Joe Aribo is caught offside.

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Matheus.

Attempt saved. Sheyi Ojo (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Scott Arfield.

Attempt missed. João Novais (Sporting Braga) header from very close range is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Wenderson Galeno with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by James Tavernier.

Booking

Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting Braga) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting Braga).

Sheyi Ojo (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Attempt blocked. João Novais (Sporting Braga) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by Ryan Kent.

Offside, Rangers. Scott Arfield tries a through ball, but Sheyi Ojo is caught offside.

Attempt missed. João Novais (Sporting Braga) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by Ryan Kent.

Attempt missed. Paulinho (Sporting Braga) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by João Novais with a cross following a set piece situation.

Trincão (Sporting Braga) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Borna Barisic (Rangers).

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Sheyi Ojo replaces Florian Kamberi.

Offside, Rangers. Connor Goldson tries a through ball, but Scott Arfield is caught offside.

Attempt saved. Connor Goldson (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by James Tavernier with a cross.

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Wenderson Galeno.

Foul by Wenderson Galeno (Sporting Braga).

James Tavernier (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Nuno Sequeira (Sporting Braga).

Joe Aribo (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Booking

Florian Kamberi (Rangers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Fransergio (Sporting Braga) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Florian Kamberi (Rangers).

Substitution

Substitution, Rangers. Joe Aribo replaces Ianis Hagi.

Paulinho (Sporting Braga) hits the right post with a header from the centre of the box. Assisted by João Novais with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Sporting Braga. Conceded by Scott Arfield.

Nuno Sequeira (Sporting Braga) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Ianis Hagi (Rangers).

Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Trincão.

Substitution

Substitution, Sporting Braga. Abel Ruiz replaces David Carmo.

Attempt missed. Trincão (Sporting Braga) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Fransergio with a headed pass.

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