Rangers squeezed through to a Champions League play-off against PSV Eindhoven after surviving a fraught night against Servette in sweltering Geneva.
A header from captain James Tavernier – so often Rangers’ European talisman – salvaged a second-leg draw and slender aggregate win.
Rangers’ 2-1 lead from Ibrox had been nullified as Dereck Kutesa whipped a wonderful finish into the top corner in a torrid first half for the visitors.
Danilo was guilty of an astonishing miss for Michael Beale’s side – spooning over an open goal – but Rangers improved after the break, and substitute Cyriel Dessers ought to have made the victory more comfortable.
Rangers will host PSV, who thumped Sturm Graz 7-2 on aggregate, next Tuesday before the return in Eindhoven the following week.
A containment job was not part of Rangers’ thinking in Switzerland, with Beale pledging to attack rather than look to protect on the first-leg advantage.
However, his side’s sprightly start soon evaporated and they were indebted to Jack Butland for two huge saves to deny Timothe Cognat and Kutesa either side of the opener as Servette caused havoc on the counter-attack.
Danilo ought to have swiftly restored Rangers’ aggregate advantage, only to somehow sclaff over the unguarded net from four yards after being picked out by Jose Cifuentes’ terrific delivery. It was Brazilian striker Danilo’s first – and only – touch in the Servette box during the opening 45 minutes.
The interval came as welcome relief for the visitors. They regrouped and emerged re-energised, with Tavernier pouncing at the back post to meet a superb cross from Borna Barisic and power his header past Joel Mall.
Rangers diligently limited Servette’s threat thereafter and Dessers sent a header an inch too high then hit the post late on as chances to put the tie beyond doubt went begging.
Player of the match – Nicolas Raskin
Job done but room for improvement – analysis
Rangers looked bang in trouble at half-time, but the nature of their response will hearten Beale as his reshaped side tries to find its feet.
They denied Servette space down the flanks after the break and controlled midfield, where Cifuentes looks an impressive addition and Nicolas Raskin continues to thrive.
Further forward Rangers look disjointed, though, and Danilo in particular cut a forlorn figure. The Brazilian, who arrived from PSV for a hefty fee this summer, struggled to link play and his glaring miss was followed by Dessers failing to add a killer touch.
Rangers are unlikely to get away with such profligacy against PSV as they look to defeat the Dutch for the second season running to reach the group stage.
What did they say?
Rangers manager Michael Beale: “We made a really slow start, we needed to dig in. At half-time we had to have some strong words as it wasn’t what we were looking for.
“It was an excellent goal we scored. After that we could’ve extended our lead. The team showed a fantastic mentality. I was pleased with the second half.”
Rangers kick off their League Cup campaign at home to Greenock Morton on Saturday (12:30 BST), then welcome to PSV to Ibrox next Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League play-off.
- 18MazikouSubstituted forBaronat 77′minutes
- 21GuillemenotBooked at 70minsSubstituted forFofanaat 77′minutes
- 5OndouaBooked at 11minsSubstituted forDibaat 71′minutes
- 8CognatBooked at 89mins
- 17KutesaSubstituted forStevanovicat 71′minutes
- 29BediaSubstituted forRodelinat 85′minutes
- 15CifuentesSubstituted forSterlingat 84′minutes
- 19SimaSubstituted forLammersat 61′minutes
- 99Pereira da SilvaSubstituted forDessersat 61′minutes
- 13CantwellSubstituted forDowellat 90+6′minutes
- Maurizio Mariani
Match ends, Servette 1, Rangers 1.
Second Half ends, Servette 1, Rangers 1.
Sam Lammers (Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Ronny Rodelin (Servette).
Substitution, Rangers. Kieran Dowell replaces Todd Cantwell.
Attempt missed. Samba Diba (Servette) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Miroslav Stevanovic with a cross.
Attempt saved. Sam Lammers (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt blocked. Miroslav Stevanovic (Servette) header from the right side of the box is blocked.
Corner, Servette. Conceded by Todd Cantwell.
Corner, Servette. Conceded by Connor Goldson.
Timothé Cognat (Servette) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Sam Lammers (Rangers).
Miroslav Stevanovic (Servette) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Servette. Ronny Rodelin replaces Chris Bedia.
Foul by Sam Lammers (Rangers).
Steve Rouiller (Servette) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Rangers. Dujon Sterling replaces José Cifuentes because of an injury.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury José Cifuentes (Rangers).
Attempt saved. Samba Diba (Servette) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Miroslav Stevanovic.