Rangers stun Villareal as Celtic grab late win
Kyle Lafferty secured a valuable point for Rangers in Spain (pic: SNS Group)
Villareal 2, Rangers 2
Rangers’ European odyssey continued in Spain with a magnificent result against Europa League specialists Villareal.
The home side have made the semi-finals of the competition on three occasions but their reputation counted for nothing as Steven Gerrard’s side went to-to-toe with the team which finished fifth in La Liga last season.
The Light Blues’ resurgence under the former England international has been impressive and they underlined their new-found belief with another sterling display on foreign soil in a four-goal thriller.
Things looked bleak for the visitors when they fell behind after just 60 seconds when Carlos Bacca opened the scoring however they held firm for the remainder of the opening period to trail by just the one goal at half-time.
Although Rangers had failed to produce much in front of the Villareal goal, Scott Arfield brought them back into the tie in the 67th minute.
Their joy was short-lived, however, with Gerard Moreno restoring the Spaniards’ advantage two minutes later.
Rangers dug deep, though, and Kyle Lafferty supplied a neat finish in the 76th minute to haul his side back level for a second time – his first goal in Europe for Rangers.
Arfield had a chance to snatch a stunning victory at the death but was denied by Andres Fernandez in the home goal.
Few people gave Rangers any hope of taking something from their Group G opener but once again Gerrard’s troops rose to the occasion.
“Sometimes away from home in Europe when you’re playing up on your own it can be a thankless task,” he said.
“You can give in and get frustrated but the control on Kyle’s finish and the way he used the speed of the cross was fantastic.
“I know it’s the first goal for Kyle at this level but he has scored many international goals, which is obviously a very high level.
“It’s not a surprise to me he scored tonight, it’s the reason I played him, it’s the reason I bought him and wanted him back here because I know he likes the big stage.
“I’m very proud of my team, especially in the second half, which was a very strong performance.”
Next up in the group is a home clash against Rapid Vienna, who defeated Spartak Moscow 2-0 in Austria.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Barisic (Dorrans, 85), Coulibaly (Middleton, 70), Halliday, Arfield, Candeias (McCrorie, 77), Lafferty, Kent.
Goals: Villareal – Bacca, Moreno; Rangers – Arfield, Lafferty.
Leigh Griffiths celebrates his late winner against Rosenborg at Parkhead (pic: SNS Group)
Celtic 1, Rosenborg 0
Celtic had Leigh Griffiths to thank for saving their blushes after a laboured display against the Norwegian champions.
The front man, who began the Group B match on the bench, headed home the only goal of the game with three minutes remaining.
Celtic had lost had lost just once in eight previous meetings with Rosenborg and this latest win was their first in an opening European group stage match for four years.
How Brendan Rodgers needed it after being knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by AEK Athens.
The Parkhead outfit had posted record revenue figures of over £100 million 24 hours earlier but couldn’t buy a goal against a well organised opponent.
On paper, this was supposed to be Celtic’s easiest game in the group but with a cutting edge severely lacking for long spells on a rain-lashed night in Glasgow, they struggled to break down the visitors.
With Rodgers having warned Griffiths, who recently penned a new four-year contract, he has to do more than just score goals for the team, the manager turned to his striker with 14 minutes remaining, Odsonne Edouard making way.
The Scotland star answered the call in the best possible fashion, superbly timing a run into the box to nod home Dedryck Boyata’s cross, Griffiths celebrating his 101st goal for the club by telling the supporters that he is the No. 1 striker.
Celtic: Gordon, Lustig, Boyata, Benkovic, Tierney, Brown, Forrest (Johnston, 58), Rogic (Sinclair, 58), Ntcham, McGregor, Edouard (Griffiths, 76).
Goals: Celtic – Griffiths.