Rangers 0-1 (2-3 agg) Benfica: Second-half Silva strike sends Schmidt’s side through to Europa League quarterfinals

A place in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals was there for the taking on Thursday evening as Rangers hosted Benfica. Phillipe Clement’s team warmed up for this second leg of the tie by dismissing Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday, while Benfica comfortably dispatched Estoril in Liga Portugal. 

RAN: Butland; Tavernier, Goldson, Souttar, Yilmaz; Lundstram, Diomande; Wright, Fabio Silva, Lawrence; Dessers

BEN: Trubin; Bah, Antonio Silva, Otamendi, Aursnes; Neves, Florentino; Rafa Silva; Di Maria, Neres, Leonardo

The return match at Ibrox started out with Roger Schmidt’s visitors dominating possession, but it was Rangers who helped themselves to the first chance of the game, as Tom Lawrence’s low shot was saved well by Anatoliy Trubin. 

Fredrik Aursnes tried his luck at the other end moments later with a beautiful curling shot towards the far corner, but Jack Butland – who can be considered unlucky to miss out on Gareth Southgate’s latest squad – got down well to collect the ball comfortably. Marcos Leonardo also saw a header go wide with 15 minutes of the first half still to play.

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Scott Wright was the next to test Anatoliy Trubin in the Benfica goal, only for the Scotsman’s long range strike to whistle just over the bar. An excellent break from a Benfica corner led by Wright resulted in Fabio Silva squaring the ball across to Cyriel Dessers, whose finish was straight at Trubin. It wouldn’t have mattered, however, as the linesman’s flag was already up.

Phillipe Clement’s side started the second half brightest, with a wonderful team move almost culminating in a tidy finish from Cyriel Dessers; only for Anatoliy Trubin to keep the ball out once again. John Lundstram fired just over the bar after the resulting corner was cleared, before John Souttar’s header found the side netting during a later corner. 

Mohammed Diomande then took aim from the edge of the box as his effort swerved towards the far corner. However, Trubin wasn’t concerned and took the ball down comfortably. Diomande’s misplaced pass minutes later almost gave Benfica the chance to take the lead on the night and on aggregate, but substitute Casper Tengstedt’s low strike was collected comfortably by Jack Butland.

Halfway through the second half, Rangers were made to pay for not taking their chances as Benfica punished their Scottish hosts. From their own corner, Phillipe Clement’s side fell to pieces, as Angel Di Maria wrestled the ball off Mohammed Diomande and headed it on towards the visitors’ top scorer Rafa Silva, who took a touch inside and smashed it home past Butland. Silva was originally thought to be offside for his goal, but after a VAR check, the first blow to Rangers’ hopes of reaching the round-of-eight stood. 

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Alexander Bah almost added a second for the visitors eight minutes from time, but his fierce strike from the edge of the box was steered to safety by Jack Butland. Antonio Silva then leaped highest from the resulting corner but directed his header well wide of the left post. 

Both sides return to league action on Sunday, as Rangers continue to hunt down the Scottish Premiership crown away at Dundee at 12pm, and Benfica head to Casa Pia at 6pm.