Rangers make Europa League Progres despite Niederkorn stalemate
Steven Gerrard’s men will now face Danish side Midtjylland in the third qualifying round.
Rangers gained Europa League revenge on Progres Niederkorn but without exacting cruel retribution as they edged past their old foes with a goalless draw in Luxembourg.
Gers were back at the scene of their worst ever European result as they returned to the Stade Josy Barthel to face the part-time minnows.
But there was no repeat of the nightmare that befell Pedro Caixinha’s side two years ago as they ground out a 2-0 aggregate win.
Last week’s Ibrox strikes from Joe Aribo and Sheyi Ojo proved to be a big enough cushion for Steven Gerrard’s team as they set up a third qualifying round showdown with Danes Midtjylland.
Scott Arfield came close to settling the tie early while Progres briefly threatened another upset with a couple of half-chances.
But Gers stood firm as they put the ghosts of 2017 to rest.
Skipper James Tavernier – making his 200th Gers appearance – and Ryan Jack were the only survivors of that shock result to start again and given the painful memories of what had occurred before, the nerves among the travelling Glasgow faithful were understandable.
They would have been settled inside the first 11 minutes had Arfield’s shot gone in rather than hit the woodwork.
There appeared little on as on-loan Liverpool winger Ojo over-hit a through ball into the box, with Progres number one Sebastien Flauss content to let it run out of play.
But Arfield refused to give it up and came close to killing the tie stone dead as he squeezed the ball through Flauss’ legs from an impossible angle, only to see it bounce back off the post.
Gerrard admitted his side had left themselves with work to do after the first leg at Ibrox after only building a two-goal lead – and his players were reminded of that fact as Metin Karayer and Emmanuel Francoise got onto crosses inside their box.
Neither troubled Allan McGregor but it was a warning that Rangers needed to keep their focus.
They did remain patient as they popped passes about the midfield but the killer final ball Gerrard was hoping for failed to materialise.
Ojo looked to be through on goal but had wandered offside before Jermain Defoe slid him in while Borna Barisic smashed a free-kick over the top.
Rangers headed in at the break in control but not dominant, knowing it was down to Progres to force their way back into the contest.
Again there was a big early opportunity to settle things but Connor Goldson failed to find the target with a header.
Gerrard then held his breath as Niederkorn created the opening they were longing for.
McGregor could only push Mayron De Almeida’s strike back into traffic, Francoise nudged it on but Niederkorn captain Sebastien Thill failed to capitalise as he fired over the bar.
Flauss was forced to push away first a Tavernier free-kick then an Ojo drive as Gers looked to get back on the front foot.
Defoe had been given the nod ahead of Alfredo Morelos to start but it took 74 minutes for the veteran Englishman to pull the trigger as his low strike deflected wide.
It was his last involvement as Morelos was introduced but the Colombian could not find the late winner either as Progres twice scrambled back to deny him tap-ins after Ojo’s pace and trickery had exploited tiring Niederkorn legs.