Europa League 3rd qualifying round
Rangers, Celtic into play-offs as group phase beckons
Victory: Steven Gerrard (pic: SNS Group)
Willem II 0 Rangers 4
Koning Willem II Stadion
Riga FC 0 Celtic 1
Sporting 1 Aberdeen 0
Estadio Jose Alvalade
Hapoel Beer Sheva 3 Motherwell 0
On a night of mixed fortunes for Scottish clubs in Europe, Rangers and Celtic booked their places in the Europa League play-offs.
The Glasgow clubs are now just one match away from a return to the group stages but Aberdeen and Motherwell were left licking their wounds after coming up short.
Steven Gerrard’s side produced another masterclass on their travels to knock four past their Dutch hosts without reply.
The Gers made the last 16 of the tournament last season and will be confident of another good run, providing they can get past Galatasaray at Ibrox next week to set up a group stage appearance for the third season in a row.
James Tavernier set the visitors on their way with a first-half penalty and further goals from Ryan Kent, Conor Goldson and Filip Helander completed an impressive victory.
Celtic’s progress was less convincing, the Scottish champions needing a last-minute goal from substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi to see of Riga in Latvia.
James Tavernier set Rangers on their way (SNS Group)
Neil Lennon’s side now head to Bosnia and Herzegovina in a week’s time needing to defeat Sarajevo to qualify for the group phase.
“It’s the first time Riga have lost here in a European tie, so big kudos to the players on that one,” said the Parkhead manager.
“We had to be patient, left it a little bit late, but we should’ve had the game wrapped up a lot earlier.”
Aberdeen’s trip to the Portuguese capital Lisbon ended in disappointment despite the home side missing nine players due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
The Dons, who earlier this week sold centre-half Scott McKenna to Nottingham Forest for a club record fee reportedly worth £6million, conceded an early goal to Sporting which proved to be the only one of the tie.
We should’ve had the game wrapped up a lot earlier– Neil Lennon
Aberdeen were left to regret that defensive slip as while they subsequently managed to contain their hosts for much of the game, they lacked real sharpness in the final third to threaten a shock.
For all the Dons’ battling qualities, Sporting dominated possession and rarely looked like letting their opponents back into the contest.
Disappointment in Europe is now becoming a familiar feeling for manager Derek McInnes, this defeat the sixth time in seven years the Pittodrie outfit has exited the competition at the third qualifying round round.
It was a similar tale of woe for Motherwell, although the 3-0 scoreline perhaps flattered Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israel.
The Steelmen were right in it at 1-0 with 20 minutes to go when Declan Gallagher received a second yellow when he conceded a penalty.
“We had so much of the game,” said boss Stephen Robinson. “After 30 minutes, we felt we had a right chance. We were so disciplined and organised, and we had chances. We certainly matched them for long periods.
“There’s a tinge of disappointment because it wasn’t like we got played off the park.”