Rangers 2-1 Servette: Hosts earn Champions League qualifying advantage over 10-man Swiss side

Rangers bounced back from domestic defeat by securing a one-goal first-leg advantage over 10-man Servette in Champions League qualifying.

Labelled a “mega game” by Michael Beale, his pumped players delivered an electric opening following the weekend defeat at Kilmarnock.

James Tavernier netted a composed penalty before Cyriel Dessers bundled in his first goal for the club in the opening 15 minutes.

The wasteful hosts could have effectively killed the tie, but the depleted Swiss visitors pulled one back out of nowhere just before the break when Dessers’ handball allowed Chris Bedia to slam in a spot-kick checked by the video assistant referee (VAR).

And the away side – missing several key players due to injuries, suspensions and visa issues – rode their luck before and after David Douline saw red for a second bookable offence to remain alive in the third-round qualifier.

A glaring close-range miss by home forward Sam Lammers, just minutes before Servette were awarded their penalty, has the potential to become a major sliding-doors moment in the tie.

But had the correct final pass been played during numerous breakaway opportunities, or had Dessers and Lammers not been thwarted by superb saves by Joel Mall, there would be simply no need to revisit the Dutchman’s first-half sitter.

“We’ll have to take the win and put in a good performance next week – we were always going to have to do that,” Rangers manager Michael Beale told BBC Scotland.

“This is the Champions League, so you know the other team are always dangerous and have good players. The job is only half done.”

The return leg takes place in Geneva next Tuesday (19:30 BST) in a game that will be live on BBC Scotland, the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.

Player of the match – Todd Cantwell

Todd Cantwell

Work to do despite improved Rangers display – analysis

Overall, there is no doubt this was a much-improved performance from Beale’s side. The way Rangers overwhelmed the Swiss visitors in the first half is everything the manager wants in his team.

Dessers getting off the mark and bright flashes from Danilo on his first start are also positives.

Cantwell, who won Rangers’ penalty with quick thinking on the blindside of Douline, also highlighted his importance to the Rangers midfield after his exclusion from Saturday’s line-up.

But issues that plagued the Ibrox side’s laboured performance in Ayrshire on Saturday crept into their second-half showing. Creating chances and missing them is one thing, not creating any is another.

With Servette a man down, the visitors camped in and Rangers lacked the inspiration to kill the tie off – albeit that should have been accomplished with the opportunities created prior to Douline’s dismissal.

It is early days for Beale’s new-look attack, but on first impression it appears to lack the explosiveness of a peak Ryan Kent. With the window still open, it remains to be seen whether he will look to address that after already spending heavily.

What they said

Rangers manager Michael Beale: “It was a fantastic start. We played with real energy, we ran forward, gave a lot to the game and created so many chances.

“The reality is at 2-0 it’s a harsh penalty, but it is one, and that’s what VAR is there for.

“Before that, the goalkeeper made two fantastic saves and we had a lot of good opportunities where you can see we’re fine-tuning and we’ll get better over time.”

Rangers are back in Scottish Premiership action on Saturday (15:00 BST) as they host Livingston before next Tuesday’s return leg – live on the BBC – in Switzerland.

Servette also play on Saturday, hosting St Gallen in the Swiss Super League.

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