Rangers keep hopes alive with remarkable recovery
Winner: Hagi celebrates (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers 3 Braga 2
FC Copenhagen 1 Celtic 1
Rangers produced a stunning fightback to keep their European hopes alive on a night of high drama at Ibrox.
Steven Gerrard’s men looked to be heading for a demoralising defeat after falling 2-0 behind to their Portuguese visitors with half-an-hour remaining.
However, despite being outplayed for large chunks of the game, the home side showed remarkable resolve to haul themselves back into contention.
Recent signing Ianis Hagi was the hero with goals either side of Joe Aribo’s strike to leave Braga shellshocked as Rangers completed a comeback that will live long in the memory.
Gerrard will now feel he has a real chance of making the last 16 when the teams line up for the return leg next Wednesday, though they will have to do so without Alfredo Morelos who will be suspended after picking up a yellow card.
“I think we’ve rediscovered ourselves, certainly from the second-half performance,” said Gerrard. “We were disappointed with a few things at half-time.
“We’ve beat a good team. We showed unbelievable character, we ran hard for each other.”
Neil Lennon was feeling equally upbeat after seeing his Celtic side earn a draw in Copenhagen.
The involvement of VAR for the first time with a Scottish club was one of the big talking points from Celtic’s trip to Denmark.
The hosts were awarded a second-half penalty after the Video Assistant Referee decided Ryan Christie had handled the ball in the box as he went up for an aerial challenge.
Fraser Forster, though, produced a superb save to push Jens Stage’s spot-kick onto his right-hand post and keep the scores level.
Odsonne Edouard had earlier netted Celtic’s first goal away from home in the knockout stages of a European competition for 17 years to put the visitors ahead. N’Doye levelled things early in the second period.
“I felt it would’ve been really harsh on us to have lost the game,” said boss Neil Lennon, who has injury concerns over captain Scott Brown who went off with a calf problem.
“I thought we had good control of the first half. Going in 1-0 at half time, I felt we could’ve been two or three up.
“We got the away goal so the tie is set-up nicely for going back to Glasgow.
“I’ve no real complaints about the penalty, it has come off Ryan’s arm in an unnatural position if you want to call it that and Fraser has done brilliantly.
“He’s made a magnificent save.”
Christie will miss the Parkhead return next week after being cautioned for his handball which resulted in the penalty award.