Glasgow Rangers came out on top in a seven-goal thriller with Royal Antwerp at the Bosuilstadion with most of the meaningful action condensed into a mind-blowing final seven minutes.
Rangers got off to the perfect start after Joe Aribo gave Steven Gerrard’s side the lead, only for the hosts to hit back through Felipe Avenatti and Lior Refaelov after Steven Davis was adjudged to have fouled the Israeli inside the box shortly before the break.
However, the Light Blues then pulled level with their own spot-kick in the second half, although Antwerp were immediately back in action to make it 3-2, thanks to Martin Hongla’s fine effort.
But Rangers weren’t to be denied the spoils after substitute Ryan Kent equalised with a fine solo effort to spark a dramatic comeback. The Gers sealed an incredible win with a second penalty from Borna Barisic after Antwerp were rocked by the dismissal of Abdoulaye Seck on the stroke of full-time after he deliberately handled the ball in the box.
Rangers are on course to reach the last-16 of the Europa League for the second time in as many seasons and although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, it was Alfredo Morelos who stole the show on their way to a vital three points.
He has often been depicted as a rather basic poacher, leading the line and scoring goals for fun, but last night Morelos turned provider and was utterly brilliant at it.
Daily Record reporter Michael Gannon handed the Colombian his Man of the Match award after he provided the assist for Aribo’s opener. He graded the 24-year-old a 9/10 and claimed Morelos was ‘unlucky not to score but absolutely vital to this Rangers performance.’
While Barisic may receive much of the plaudits for adding the finishing touches, Morelos arguably outshone the Croatian to steal the show on the night.
The six-cap Colombia international was at the centre of nearly everything going forwards, producing more key passes (five) than any other player on the pitch including the Croatian, who could only manage three.
That’s also backed up by the fact that Morelos recorded a better pass success rate than Barisic (91%), that being the highest out of any player in an away shirt other than Aribo and Glen Kamara.
Morelos was a constant threat upfront at the top of the pitch as he left the likes of Antwerp defenders Seck (6.1), Maxime Le Marchand (6.9) and Ritchie De Laet (6.5) all trailing in his wake, as none of them received a rating higher than 6.9, such was the level of their sub-par performances.
It’s no surprise to see that the £10.8m-rated Colombian front man was also fouled twice – the second-highest out of the entire Rangers squad – as he caused all sorts of problems by creating the space that allowed the likes of Kent and Aribo to run in behind Antwerp’s backline; out of his 46 touches, he attempted 32 out of a possible 35 passes, which suggests that, more often that not, he was playing with his head up and always looking to find a teammate.
Next up for the Gers is Dundee United at Ibrox before the return fixture at home to Antwerp next week. If he keeps playing like that, they should have no problems at all.