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Rangers 2-1 Galatasaray: Steven Gerrard’s side seal their place in Europa League group stage

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rangers 2 1 galatasaray steven gerrards side seal their place in europa league group stage

Rangers remain imperious in this domain. Each year, the opposition barring their path has improved. Each year, Steven Gerrard and his players have navigated a way through.

A 19th qualifying match without defeat means Europa League group stage football will visit Ibrox for a third successive season. This achievement, though, can stand a little above the admirable efforts of the previous two campaigns.

Unlocking a prize fund of up to £10million demanded intelligence and diligence against a Galatasaray side who competed in the Champions League last time round.

Scott Arfield celebrates putting Rangers 1-0 up at Ibrox against Galatasaray on Thursday night

Scott Arfield celebrates putting Rangers 1-0 up at Ibrox against Galatasaray on Thursday night

Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Arfield after Rangers took the lead against Galatasaray

Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Arfield after Rangers took the lead against Galatasaray

James Tarvernier's header made it 2-0 to Rangers, which proved to be the winning goal

James Tarvernier’s header made it 2-0 to Rangers, which proved to be the winning goal

Tavernier was mobbed by his delighted Rangers team mates after the final whistle

Tavernier was mobbed by his delighted Rangers team mates after the final whistle 

Gerrard’s side produced precisely what was needed, displaying all the experience they harvested on the continental stage.

After a tense, tight first half, goals from Scott Arfield and captain James Tavernier – his seventh in seven games – propelled Rangers into the draw at UEFA HQ in Nyon this lunchtime. The nerves created by Marcao’s 87th minute response only served to heighten delight at full-time.

For Gerrard, the reasons why are obvious. Aside from prestige, the Ibrox manager expressed a belief on Wednesday that his remaining transfer plans could hinge on European progression. Attempts to secure another midfielder ahead of Monday’s deadline can now be stepped up.

This competition has already provided the means to rebuild and strengthen Gerrard’s squad. What happens over the next four days could also have an obvious influence on the attempt to stop Celtic from winning a tenth successive Premiership title.

That task will resume when Ross County visit on Sunday. Before then, Rangers are entitled to savour this slaying of a Turkish giant. It also stands a huge result for Scotland’s coefficient in the bid to bring an automatic Champions League place back these shores.

It was achieved amid emotional sub-plots. Alfredo Morelos didn’t score but came out on top against hero Falcao. Then there was Ianis Hagi.

Born in Istanbul when dad Gheorghe was creating a legend a Galatasaray, the 21-year-old Romanian provided the assist for Arfield’s invaluable opener.

Gerrard’s team selection was a simple process. Rested to protect a tight groin in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Motherwell, Borna Barisic returned to left-back as expected. Hagi was restored ahead of Jordan Jones, while fit-again Ryan Jack was left on the bench to avoid disrupting a midfield trio that had shone in its previous two outings.

Rangers conceded three minutes from the end through Teixeira but they managed to hold on

Rangers conceded three minutes from the end through Teixeira but they managed to hold on

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard and Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim exchanged heated words

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard and Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim exchanged heated words

Former West Ham United winger Sofiane Feghouli started for the Turkish side in Glasgow

Former West Ham United winger Sofiane Feghouli started for the Turkish side in Glasgow

Falcao’ presence at the spearhead of Galatasaray’s line-up reminded of the continuing strength of Galatasaray. With coronavirus biting across the continent, however, their need for the the finance of group stage qualification was no less acute than their host’s.

It was Ranger who displayed the early urgency. On the front foot from the start, Gerrard’s men sought to pull their opponents out of shape with quick passing that sought to maximise the wing-back raids of Tavernier and Borna Barisic.

The latter delivered a fourth minute corner headed down by Connor Goldson to prompt handball appeals against Martin Linnes. Two weekend spot-kick offences had arrived from those offences at Fir Park, but Latvian referee Andris Treimanis was unmoved here.

A swift break then led to Tavernier sweeping in the most tempting of deliveries from the right flank. Arfield timed his run from midfield almost to perfection, the ball evading his sliding attempt to connect by millimetres.

The Ibrox men came closer still on 11 minutes by an already familiar route. Another Barisic corner was aimed deep for Goldson. This time, a powerful header was diverted over the bar by the smart reactions of Galatasaray centre-back Christian Luyindama.

Rangers' Colombian international Alrfredo Morelos has scored five goals so far this season

Rangers’ Colombian international Alrfredo Morelos has scored five goals so far this season

Galatasaray pushed Rangers all the way forcing a late goal but ultimately it wasn't enough

Galatasaray pushed Rangers all the way forcing a late goal but ultimately it wasn’t enough

It was a frustrating night for the Turkish side, who must now focus on domestic football

It was a frustrating night for the Turkish side, who must now focus on domestic football

It was an intervention that ensured the Turks weathered the early storm. Inevitably, they began to push back. Rangers’ control of midfield eroded for a spell as Younes Belhanda started to show his play making class.

A Ryan Babel cross from the left could have been converted by Sofiane Feghouli had Barisic not tracked to deny him sufficient space.

Then Goldson and Arfield got in a mix-up that allowed the visitors to spring forward. The ball was worked to Feghouli at the edge, with Rangers exuding a collective sigh of relief when the Algerian midfielder blazed hopelessly high. It was his cross that led to Galatasaray’s turn for a dismissed handball shout – against Arfield.

Gerrard’s team often seemed reluctant to press too high. As it was, though, their best chance from the remainder of the first half came when Luyindama’s forward pass was blocked by Kent. The space was there, but Alfredo Morelos and Hagi couldn’t combine to exploit it.

A clearer opening followed just 55 seconds after the restart. A lovely run down the left by Kent ended up with a cross stood up nicely for Morelos. The Colombian couldn’t get quite enough power behind his header, however, and goalkeeper Faith Ozturk was able to grasp.

Galatasaray sit third in the Turkish league and have taken seven pints from their three games

Galatasaray sit third in the Turkish league and have taken seven pints from their three games

Filip Helander had to produce an excellent block on Feghouli at the other end, but this time Rangers would be rewarded for starting a half with purpose. The vital breakthrough arrived on 52 minutes – via a beautifully constructed move.

Tavernier fizzed a low forward pass that Morelos allowed to run to Hagi. By this point, Arfield was already on the move. His instinctive understanding of how and when the attack space was rewarded when Hagi rolled a perfectly weighted angled ball in front of him.

There was still work to do, but Arfield did with style. A lovely finish off the outside of his right foot beat Ozturk and shot confidence through the veins of his team-mates.

That new assurance was rewarded by a doubling of the advantage seven minutes. Barisic worked hard to get to the touchline, with his cross looping high from an Omar Elabdellaoui deflection.

It took it from one full-back to another. Tavernier closed in, towering above Martin Linnes to head high into the net.

Marcao headed home a corner in the 87th minute to create anxiety but Rangers emerged with another sizeable scalp.

Steven Gerrard couldn't contain his delight after steering Rangers to the group stages

Steven Gerrard couldn’t contain his delight after steering Rangers to the group stages

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Dias showed what he is about by bouncing back from error to shine for Manchester City against Porto

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dias showed what he is about by bouncing back from error to shine for manchester city against porto

Manchester City‘s detractors might say that Ruben Dias has settled in already. He strode out from the back, purposefully attempted to pass through the lines, gave away possession and the opposition scored on the break.

A fair few central defenders have done that in this stadium over the years and it was not the £64million signing’s finest moment in what has been an encouraging start to his City career.

But he has bashfully rejected comparisons with Vincent Kompany, and severe criticism would be premature. If nothing else, City at least appear more stable for the inclusion of Dias, which is a significant step forward.

Pep Guardiola will take heart from how Ruben Dias recovered after his early mistake

Pep Guardiola will take heart from how Ruben Dias recovered after his early mistake

Pep Guardiola will take heart from how Ruben Dias recovered after his early mistake

Pep Guardiola’s hunt for someone to slot alongside Aymeric Laporte has been a long one, taking in at least five targets over the last 18 months.

City settled on Dias and have already benefited from his rugged defensive ability — a bit of grit in a unit that has been far too porous.

In that sense, the 23-year-old has borrowed a fair amount from his mentor Pepe, described by those around the Portugal squad as something of a father figure. 

Pepe — who captained Porto on Wednesday night — has been one of the best, an unashamed master of the old art for well over a decade. City need that. 

The 23-year-old defender has injected a bit of grit and leadership into City's backline

The 23-year-old defender has injected a bit of grit and leadership into City's backline

The 23-year-old defender has injected a bit of grit and leadership into City’s backline

There will be time to finesse Dias’s distribution when they finally get the chance to take training sessions that are not focused on recovery from the last match or preparation for the next.

What they do not need to hone is his leadership. Although young, Dias has that in abundance, with a ‘mentality of a champion’, according to those who know him. 

His English is flawless and Guardiola will take heart from how he approached this game after his early mistake — notably when he jockeyed Luis Diaz for 20 yards and held him up as Porto threatened to nudge ahead for a second time.

Many who went before him wilted in adversity. There was some evidence here that Dias is made of stronger stuff.

Dias speaks to Eric Garcia during Wednesday's Champions League victory over Porto

Dias speaks to Eric Garcia during Wednesday's Champions League victory over Porto

Dias speaks to Eric Garcia during Wednesday’s Champions League victory over Porto

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Klopp praises Gomez and Fabinho but warns his players ‘there is a lot to improve’ after Ajax win

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klopp praises gomez and fabinho but warns his players there is a lot to improve after ajax win

Jurgen Klopp hailed Liverpool‘s battling qualities that enabled them to emerge from a ‘pressure situation’ in Amsterdam with a confidence restoring victory.

Liverpool beat Ajax 1-0 thanks to an own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico but their performance in their opening Group D fixture was characterised by the way midfielder Fabinho moved back into central defence and never put a foot wrong.

The highlight of his display came just before half-time, when he acrobatically scooped Dusan Tadic’s lob off the line. Ajax were a nuisance throughout and they came close to grabbing an equaliser when Davy Klaassen hit a post early in the second period.

Jurgen Klopp was impressed with how his Liverpool team battled to win three points at Ajax

Jurgen Klopp was impressed with how his Liverpool team battled to win three points at Ajax

Jurgen Klopp was impressed with how his Liverpool team battled to win three points at Ajax

An own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico in the first half was enough for Liverpool to win the game

An own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico in the first half was enough for Liverpool to win the game

An own goal from Nicolas Tagliafico in the first half was enough for Liverpool to win the game

Klopp conceded there is still significant room for improvement in Liverpool’s form but, after a turbulent week that began with Virgil van Dijk being ruled out for the majority of the season, the manager was delighted with his team’s determination.

‘Was there pressure in the situation? Yes,’ said Klopp. ‘It (a clean sheet) is huge but we are not dumb enough to think we didn’t need a bit of luck as Fabinho needed to make a proper stretch to get that ball from the line and they hit the post.

‘The clean sheet is one information but we could have done better. I don’t care in the moment. We wanted to win the game and we have done that but now we don’t hang the clean sheet too high because there were two situations where we were not far away from perfect.

Liverpool registered a clean sheet and Klopp was complimentary of Joe Gomez's performance

Liverpool registered a clean sheet and Klopp was complimentary of Joe Gomez's performance

Liverpool registered a clean sheet and Klopp was complimentary of Joe Gomez’s performance

Fabinho was also a standout performer and made a vital goal-line clearance in the first half

Fabinho was also a standout performer and made a vital goal-line clearance in the first half

Fabinho was also a standout performer and made a vital goal-line clearance in the first half

‘But the result is absolutely OK. Now on Saturday night a completely different challenge. Sheffield United have had their legs on the sofa and we need to recover quickly. It was a good performance but there is a lot to improve – and that is good.’

All eyes were on Fabinho and Joe Gomez, given the injuries to Van Dijk and Joel Matip, but Klopp did not have any doubts about whether the Brazilian would be able to cope with the different demands that were asked of him.

‘For the two at the back, it was their first game together,’ said Klopp. ‘They need to get used to each other, they need to get used to the verbal demands. Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually. If I asked him to play right back I don’t think he would enjoy it as much.

‘In our situation we have to keep those boys fit. I’m not surprised Fabinho plays in the position, otherwise I would have thought about a different solution. That would have been tricky but I’m really pleased.’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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‘We are struggling at the moment’: Ilkay Gundogan admits Manchester City are not their usual best

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we are struggling at the moment ilkay gundogan admits manchester city are not their usual best

Ilkay Gundogan has said that Manchester City still haven’t found top gear this season despite a strong second-half display against Porto.

Gundogan scored a sublime free-kick in City’s 3-1 Group C victory in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

City did, however, go behind through Luis Diaz’s goal in the first half which exposed frailties in Pep Guardiola‘s defence.

Ilkay Gundogan scored Manchester City's second goal in the 3-1 win over Porto at the Etihad

Ilkay Gundogan scored Manchester City's second goal in the 3-1 win over Porto at the Etihad

Ilkay Gundogan scored Manchester City’s second goal in the 3-1 win over Porto at the Etihad

And while City have won two of their opening four Premier League games, Gundogan believes they are still some way off their best.

He said: ‘If I’m being honest we are struggling at the moment.’

City were dealt a further fitness blow late on in Wednesday’s win when Fernandinho, who came on as a substitute in the 85th minute, left the pitch nine minutes later with an injury. The Brazilian midfielder could be out for four to six weeks.

There was bad news for City when Fernandinho went off injured nine minutes after coming on

There was bad news for City when Fernandinho went off injured nine minutes after coming on

There was bad news for City when Fernandinho went off injured nine minutes after coming on

Nathan Ake wasn’t included in City’s squad against Porto, raising doubts over his fitness and whether he will play against West Ham on Saturday.

Gundogan, who admits he still isn’t fully fit having tested positive for coronavirus last month, added it would be easy for Guardiola to rotate because of City’s fitness problems.

He said: ‘Fernandinho went off at the end, we have players playing in different positions. I am not 100 per cent there because I had Covid, we are not all at the same moment.

Pep Guardiola could be without his Brazilian defensive midfielder for four to six weeks

Pep Guardiola could be without his Brazilian defensive midfielder for four to six weeks

Pep Guardiola could be without his Brazilian defensive midfielder for four to six weeks

‘That is the challenge for this season, it’s not going to end for a while. It’s not going to be difficult for Pep to pick an XI because players are going to be tired.’

Guardiola said after the game that he was ready to take Gundogan off seconds before he scored in the 65th minute – the 29-year-old came off three minutes later. 

Guardiola added: ‘We decided before the goal he [Gundo] would go off but he made an incredible goal.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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