Goldson strike earns Rangers narrow lead over Ufa

Connor Goldson kept Rangers on track for the Europa League group stages as his goal handed Steven Gerrard’s side a 1-0 win over Ufa.

The former Brighton defender’s close-range header ensures Rangers head to the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan next Thursday packing a slender first-leg lead.

The result saw Gerrard rack up his 10th game without defeat since taking over in the summer but the Gers boss will be frustrated his side did not put the tie to bed.

Kyle Lafferty was back in blue a day after completing his Rangers return from Hearts but he could not cap off a dream second debut with a goal.

The Russians arrived in Glasgow on the back of a 3-0 beating from Dynamo Moscow domestically and it was clear early they would not pose Rangers the problems both Osijek and Maribor managed in previous rounds.

But that was not to say they would make life easy as Sergei Tomarov’s men rolled up their sleeves and dug in.

Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos tested Aleksandr Belenov early, while Goldson headed wide after 32 minutes.

But as much as Ufa were proving hard to shake, Gers were also showing a hesitancy in pulling the trigger.

Injury had robbed Gerrard of Jamie Murphy – now out for the season after rupturing knee ligaments on Kilmarnock’s plastic pitch – as well as Lassana Coulibaly and they missed both the Scot’s devilment out wide and the Mali international’s power through the middle.

Ryan Kent was deputising for Murphy but too often showed a reluctance to drive at his Ufa right-back Dmitry Zhivoglyadov. It was not until the 41st minute that he got himself to the bye-line but when he did, it brought the opener.

His cross was put out for a corner but his delivery from the set-piece was on the money for Morelos. Belenov parried the Colombian’s header but could only look on hopelessly as Goldson leapt on the rebound to score.

Rangers switched off at the restart though and were grateful once again for Allan McGregor – the saviour in last week’s draw in Maribor – as the keeper blocked Zhivoglyadov’s strike at the back post while there was another scare when Ivan Paurevic hooked over from the resulting corner.

Gerrard felt his side should have had a penalty 13 minutes into the second period when Jemal Tabidze went in clumsily on Candeias but Polish referee Daniel Stefanski was not interested.

Then, six years after walking out on the club following its financial meltdown, Lafferty made his return when he climbed off the bench in the 69th minute. All was clearly forgiven as Ibrox roared his entrance onto the pitch.

He was lucky referee Stefanski was in similar mood after catching Tabidze with a boot to the midriff, earning only a yellow card.

Rangers were keen to put daylight between themselves and their opponents but saw Kent fizz over, while another penalty claim was turned down when substitute Glenn Middleton tumbled at Zhivoglyadov’s feet.

But in the end they were fortunate to have a lead at all to take to Russia after Paurevic failed to convert from close range at the death.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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