Patterson redeemed as Rangers romp to last 16
Royal approval: Rangers celebrate (pic: SNS Group).
Rangers 5 Royal Antwerp 2 (agg: 9-5)
Half-time substitute Nathan Patterson scored within 17 seconds of coming on to help Rangers romp to another big European victory and redeem his own reputation.
The 19-year-old was one of five Ibrox players who had earned a club fine and the wrath of boss Steven Gerrard after breaching Covid-19 rules by attending a party.
Last night the young starlet wasted no time turning himself into a local hero, making an instant impression by restoring the home side’s lead in another pulsating tie.
With Ibrox proving an impenetrable fortress this season, Rangers go into the last 16 of the Europa League ready to face anybody.
The high-scoring win over Royal Antwerp propelled the Glasgow side into the draw with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax all lying in wait.
Gerrard’s side have now won a remarkable 19 of their 20 home games in all competitions this season – one match was drawn – scoring 57 goals and conceding on just nine occasions.
Those are the sort of statistics to make any opponent sit up and take note – and fill the Light Blues with confidence ahead of the next ties in March.
Rangers made it to the last 16 last season where they were eventually knocked out by Bayer Leverkusen and the mood in the camp suggests an even longer run this time around is the target.
“Hopefully, we will learn from last season and go a bit further,” said Ryan Kent after the Belgians were defeated 9-5 on aggregate.
“We work hard on the training pitch and make sure we are disciplined in all areas. We work hard for each other and you can see that. We’ve got a solid back four and we’ve got people who can fill big shoes as well.
“I said at the start of the season we entered this competition with ambitions and goals and that was to get further than last season.
“We’re not here just to take part in a competition, we want to compete until the very end.”
Gerrard was full of praise for his team after taking care of Antwerp, saying: “Whoever you come up against in the last 16, it is going to be a big challenge, especially if you get one of those English teams because we would be punching well above our weight for sure.
“I am really pleased with the lads, the atmosphere in the dressing room is fantastic.
“The draw will give us whatever it gives us. What we will do is look forward to it with excitement and we will look forward to both ties.”
Alfredo Morelos, Nathan Patterson, Kent, Borna Barisic (pen) and Cedric Itten (pen) were all on target against Royal Antwerp, whose goals came from Lior Refaelov and Didier Lamkel Ze.
On the domestic front, Rangers are 18 points clear of crisis-hit Celtic and sit just seven points away from being crowned champions for the first time in 10 years. Livingston are their next opponents on Wednesday night.
McGregor, Balogun (Patterson 45′), Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis (Zunguat 82′), Aribo, Hagi (Arfield 71′), Morelos (Ittenat 85′) Kent (Wright 82′)