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Cool Aribo gets ball rolling as Gers seize the initiative

Rangers 2 Progres 0

All smiles: Steven Davis rushes to join in as Joe Aribo celebrates hitting Rangers’ opener at Ibrox
All smiles: Steven Davis rushes to join in as Joe Aribo celebrates hitting Rangers’ opener at Ibrox
Happy days: Rangers ace Sheyi Ojo shows his delight after netting the second against Progres

By Gavin McCafferty

Rangers hope a 2-0 lead will be enough to exorcise the Europa League ghosts of 2017 after missing the chance to kill off old foes Progres Niederkorn at the first attempt.

The part-timers from Luxembourg dished out one of the biggest upsets in Gers' history when they dumped Pedro Caixinha's side out of the competition two years ago.

Goals from Joe Aribo and on-loan Liverpool youngster Sheyi Ojo at Ibrox mean Steven Gerrard's men should now go on and bury those painful memories.

Yet a missed a second-half penalty from skipper James Tavernier was among a host of spurned opportunities that ensure the Light Blues still have work to do in the Grand Duchy next Thursday.

The three survivors of that humiliating loss - Tavernier, Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos - got their shot at revenge as Gerrard handed the trio starts.

On their last visit to Glasgow, the minnows limited Rangers to a 1-0 win before stunning the toothless Light Blues with two goals in the Stade Josy Barthel return. But it would rank as an even bigger disaster if Gers do not finish the job from here.

It took 20 minutes for Rangers' pressure to pay off. Their constant probing around the box dragged Niederkorn deep before the ball was popped out to Aribo in space on the edge of the box.

The summer signing from Charlton set himself confidently before sweeping a delicious finish past Flauss. Ojo only had to wait until the 53rd minute to have the fans cheering again as he collected Steven Davis' short-corner before curling a 20-yard strike into the far corner.

Gerrard looked frustrated as Rangers appeared determined to walk the ball into the net.

Tavernier smashed his spot-kick against the base of the post after substitute Jordan Jones had been hauled down by Tom Laterza. There were flashbacks to the Caixinha era for the fans when Progres' Jack Mmaee raced clear looking for a crucial away goal. Thankfully Allan McGregor came to the rescue with a vital block.

Again the offside flag foiled the hosts as Jack tucked home from a Jermain Defoe lay-off.

Niederkorn had Laterza dismissed at the death for a second booking but their slim hopes of a repeat shock live on thanks to Flauss' heroics in the final stages.

• SAM Cosgrove scored a 68th-minute penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw for Aberdeen against Georgian side Chikhura.

Dons debutant Funso Ojo conceded a spot-kick in the 41st minute, and Vazha Koripadze put the hosts ahead in Tbilisi.

However, Aberdeen - who had Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn in their starting line-up - will be confident of finishing the job at Pittodrie next week after Cosgrove kept his cool.

Rangers: McGregor, Arfield (Jones 66), Aribo, Davis, Edmundson, Goldson, Halliday, Jack, Morelos (Defoe 75), Ojo (Stewart 81), Tavernier. Subs not used: Foderingham, Barisic, Kamara, Katic.

Progres Niederkorn: Flauss, de Almeida, Ferino, Hall, Karayer, Laterza, Muratovic (Mmaee 45), Silaj, Skenderovic (Matias Marques 33), Tekiela (Francoise 80), Vogel. Subs not used: Czekanowiz, Bastos, Cervellera, Shala.

Man of the match: Aribo

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Espen Eskas (Norway)

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