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Covid-hit Rangers made heavy work of a goalless second leg against 10-man Alashkert as they qualified for the Europa League group stage.

Alfredo Morelos missed a hat-trick of excellent chances to add to his solitary first-leg strike, but Robby McCrorie kept a clean sheet on his first Rangers start to see them into the group stage for a fourth consecutive season.

Manager Steven Gerrard missed the trip to Armenia along with a number of players, including goalkeepers Allan McGregor and Jon McLaughlin, after Rangers reported positive Covid tests.

Ryan Kent, James Tavernier and Calvin Bassey were absent, along with the suspended Kemar Roofe and John Lundstram.

With Gary McAllister and Michael Beale directing affairs from the dugout, the Rangers team still had a familiar look ahead of McCrorie, who has more than 100 first-team appearances to his name thanks to loan spells at Livingston and Queen of the South.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper was not seriously troubled but there were some anxious second-half moments for the visitors.

And, with an inexperienced bench, Cedric Itten was the only substitute to come on in 30-plus temperatures ahead of Sunday’s visit of Celtic.

The nerves could have been settled early on when Morelos shot over from eight yards after Rangers had won the ball deep in the home half.

Joe Aribo had a measured effort from the edge of the box touched on to the post before Morelos got an even better chance. Scott Arfield’s pass put the striker clean through, but he lacked conviction and shot weakly straight at the goalkeeper.

Rangers looked in control and the home side lost a man in the 39th minute when James Santos caught McCrorie in the head with his boot when it looked easier to avoid contact. A straight red card looked the correct option but a second yellow had the same effect for Rangers.

Arfield had a late first-half chance following a one-two with Morelos but shot straight at the keeper and Rangers struggled to put the game to bed in the second period.

Scott Arfield

Scott Arfield celebrates Rangers’ progress into the Europa League group stages

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Although Ianis Hagi headed wide following a Steven Davis cross, it was the hosts who had the bulk of the chances in the early stages.

Aleksandar Glisic headed over after losing Borna Barisic, and Jose Embalo just failed to get a foot on a cross from the left before seeing a shot comfortably saved on the break.

Morelos could have sewn up matters after Nathan Patterson picked him out unmarked at the back post, but he shot well over from eight yards before having a better effort pushed over.

Rangers were forced into more defending before Aribo hit the bar with a deflected effort in the final few seconds.

The post Aribo’s Rangers reach UEL group stage after draw in Armenia appeared first on Sporting Life.

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