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Captain Tavernier shows his value as Rangers seal convincing Europa League win

Rangers 3-1 Maribor

By Ronnie Esplin

Skipper James Tavernier underlined his importance to Rangers as his penalty edged Steven Gerrard's men towards a 3-1 victory over Maribor at Ibrox.

Gerrard staved off interest in the right-back from West Brom ahead of their Europa League showdown with the Slovenians.

And it was the captain who took on the responsibility of firing the Light Blues back in front after their sluggish first-half display had threatened to hand the visitors the first-leg momentum.

Alfredo Morelos was back in the side following his Pittodrie dismissal - his red card subsequently downgraded to yellow- and was again at the thick of the drama, first putting Rangers ahead, then wasting a golden opportunity by getting himself caught offside before eventually winning the spot-kick that nudged the hosts back in front.

Lassana Coulibaly's late header put daylight between the teams but Mitja Viler's strike for Maribor means there is still work to be done in next Thursday's return.

Gerrard's squad was a little lighter ahead of kick-off after Josh Windass and Declan John were allowed to seal deadline-day moves to Wigan and Swansea respectively, while Ryan Jack missed out due to the concussion he sustained at Aberdeen.

But with Tavernier leading the team and Morelos restored to his starting slot the hosts started with confidence.

And it was the Colombian who gave Rangers the dream start with the opener inside five minutes.

Daniel Candeias and Scott Arfield's pressing pinned the Slovenians into the far corner as Marko Suler was stripped of possession.

Arfield quickly fed the ball to Ryan Kent and while the Liverpool youngster's side-footed effort was stopped by Jasmin Handanovic, the Maribor keeper could do nothing as Morelos jumped on the rebound.

But rather than build on that opening, it was a ragged Rangers which emerged.

A drop in focus seemed to sweep through the Light Blues, and and it took an impressive McGregor block to prevent Amir Derisevic scoring before Tavernier blocked Luka Zahovic's rebound.

Tavernier's timing had to be perfect again as another superb ball from Derisevic sent Denis Klinar sprinting in behind Jon Flanagan, with the captain making it just in time to deny Gregor Bajde a tap-in.

But after Morelos allowed himself to be caught offside when bundling the ball into an empty net, Derisevic fired a perfect cross-field pass for Viler to lash first-time past McGregor.

After a Gerrard earbashing at the break, Rangers came back out with their concentration levels restored.

Morelos, twisting one way then another, lured Ivkovic into a trip on 49 minutes and Tavernier stroked home the penalty before, from 20 yards, forcing Handanovic into a brilliant fingertip save.

But Coulibaly gave Rangers' a two-goal advantage when he nodded home from Murphy's cross with five minutes left.

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