Full-time: Villarreal 2-2 Rangers
What a tremendous result this is for Rangers, especially after a first half in which they posed no threat whatsoever to the hosts. At times it seemed they would be lucky to avoid a serious tonking but once they rebelled and started to take the fight to Villarreal, they looked dangerous. Their goals – especially the second – were lovely and their point well deserved. Steven Gerrard can take great satisfaction from the way his players refused to panic and grew into the game by showing strong character and some tidy play. And a special mention must go to Glenn Middleton, the 18-year-old who made a big impact off the bench. Rangers’ Europa League group campaign is off to an encouraging start!
90+4 min: What a cross from the right for Bacca, who has a great chance to score at the back post …. but heads wide from three yards!
90+3 min: Dorrans booked for reasons not immediately clear.
90+3 min: Corner to Villarreal. Cazorla fizzes it into the danger zone. Moreno eludes Goldson gets his head to it, glancing the ball just wide from six yards!
90+1 min: A point? Rangers want three! Dorrans opens up the home defence with a cute disguised pass to Arfield, who had burst from deep and tries to stab the ball past the advancing keeper on the run. But the keeper saves to deny Rangers their first victory over a Spanish team in Spain.
89 min: More disciplined defending by Rangers prevents Villarreal from opening the door. Their knocking is actually growing more feint. Rangers are edging closer to an impressive point ….
88 min: Rangers entrenched in their own half, erecting ramparts that Villarreal don’t look like infiltrating at the moment. But there are two minutes plus stoppage time to go, and that can be a looonnnng time in these circumstances.
86 min: Arfield, who struggled badly in the first half, has personified Rangers’ improvement and underlined the point by winning the ball midway inside his own half, sabotaging a Villarreal attack.
Rangers substitution: Dorrans on, Barisic limps off
83 min: Villarreal are hogging the ball and probing with ominous purpose. But Rangers are keeping their shape and tackling with real tenacity and no little composure. They were in danger of being blown away earlier in this game but Gerrard will be chuffed at how they’ve grown into it in this second half – especially if they hold on for a point, at least.
81 min: Villarreal are back on the front foot now, alright, and Rangers are starting to retreat a little too much …
Villarreal substitution: Chukweze on, Sansome off. Can Villarreal’s teenage substitute have a similar impact to Middleton? The home side certainly need something to get them back on the front foot, because rangers are starting to entertain thoughts of taking three points here.
GOAL! Villarreal 2-2 Rangers (Lafferty 77)
That’s a super team goal! Middleton was heavily involved, playing a lovely pass down the right wing to Barisic, who fired an excellent low cross towards the near post. Lafferty beat the defender to it and guided it first time past the keeper! A really memorable goal, not least for young Middleton. He’s changed this game!
74 min: Middleton receives a throw-in with his back to goal and shows impressive strength to roll his man and try to dig out a cross. It fails to find a teammate but the youngster has been bright since his introduction, offering Rangers a new threat. They’re not out of this yet.
Rangers substitution: Middleton on, Coulibaly off. Within a minute of coming on, the 18-year-old is chopped down by Llambrich, who gets a deserved booking.
GOAL! Villarreal 2-1 Rangers (Moreno 68)
Well that didn’t last long. Villarreal cranked p the tempo and swept forward before Moreno, a recent substitute, receives the ball on the right-hand side of the box. cuts back on to his left foot to fool Barisic, and drives a fierce low shot into the net from nine yards.
GOAL! Villarreal 1-1 Rangers (Arfield 67)
Having hung in for most of the match, Rangers launch a smooth counter-attack and score with their first shot on target! Arfield clips it into the net from six yards after a smart pullback from the right-hand byline by Candelas!
66 min: McGregor has to hurtle out of his box again to make another desperate clearance. He succeeds only in diverting it as far as Fornals, who tries to chip it over the stranded keeper and into the net from 25 yards. But he gets his calculations all wrong.
64 min: Lafferty gets his ankle kicked on half-way by Ruiz, and Rangers get a freekick. They funnel it down the right and win a corner. Tavernier’s delivery is nutted away by Funes Mori.
Villarreal substitution: Trigueros on, Ekambi off.
61 min: Terrific save by McGregor! Barisic headed a cross out to the edge of the area, where Funes Mori met it with a spanking low volley. The keeper got down impressively fast and showed a good strong hand to push it out for a corner!
59 min: Cazorla delivers a corner for Villarreal, pinging it out to the edge of the box. Pedraz meets it with firm volley, which whizzes over the bar. “I’m sure you’ve said this, Paul, but what a pleasure it is to see Santi Cazorla not only named on the team sheet, but actually playing, and seemingly playing well – and still on the pitch coming up to the hour – wonderful!” coos Charles Antaki. Yes, I did say it and, yes, he is playing with real class. Rangers’ midfielders can’t get close to him.
57 min: Tavernier drifts a curling freekick towards the far post, hoping a teammate will apply a decisive touch. But no one can reach it.
56 min: Kent is upended by Llambrich a few yards outside the box after a loverly burst. A freekick in a promising location …
53 min: Rangers win a corner following a decent move, with Arfield heavily involved. Tavernier and Kent combine for a short one before Tavernier hoists in a high cross. Lafferty does well to keep it in play on the far side. But a scruffy attack soon fizzles out. Still, at least Rangers spent a bit of time down the right end of the pitch after Villarreal dominated the start of the second half.
50 min: Cazorla and Fornals carve open Rangers again with some neat interplay at the edge of the box. Cazorla serves the ball back across goal from the byline. It travels beyond the far post, where Ekambi arrives to blaze it over the bar! Rangers are lucky to still be only a goal down.
49 min: Ekambi breaks the Rangers’ offside trap … and McGregor charges out of his box to take the ball off the striker’s foot! But it breaks to Bacca, who has a free shot at an empty goal from 25 yards … and he sidefoots it a yard wide of the near post!
48 min: A good corner by Tavernier is headed clear. Setpieces look Rangers’ best hope.
47 min: Villarreal make a snappy start to the second half. They are sharper and more nimble than Rangers. But an attempted pass to Bacca is slightly overhit, ruining a promising move.
46 min: Neither manager has made personnel alterations. “rangers have got to be more aggressive with and without the ball,” advises Ally McCoist on BT.
Half-time: Villarreal 1-0 Rangers
Rangers conceded within the first minute and must have feared a battering but they have managed to avoid falling further behind. That’s about it as far as positives go for them from a first half in which they have never looked like equalising. Lafferty has been a lonely mule up front. Villarreal have been comfortably the better team without looking anything special. You get the feeling they’d be content to let the second half play out the same way. The onus is on Rangers to come up with something different if they’re to make a contest of this. Over to you, Stevie.