Soccer

James Tavernier heads Rangers through to Champions League play-offs

James Tavernier, right, celebrates his crucial goal (Laurent Gillieron/AP)
James Tavernier, right, celebrates his crucial goal (Laurent Gillieron/AP) James Tavernier, right, celebrates his crucial goal (Laurent Gillieron/AP)

James Tavernier’s equaliser sent Rangers into the Champions League play-offs as an improved second-half display in Switzerland saw them overcome Servette.

Tavernier’s header five minutes after the break sealed a 1-1 draw which handed Michael Beale’s side a 3-2 aggregate win.

Rangers had failed to test the home goalkeeper in the first half and might have been further behind at the interval but they were the better side after the break and had chances to win the second leg.

The result sets Rangers up for a repeat of last year’s play-off against PSV Eindhoven as the cinch Premiership runners-up bid for a second consecutive campaign in the group stages.

Beale brought Connor Goldson and Ryan Jack back into the team after resting the pair for Saturday’s league win over Livingston and the Gers manager changed his formation from the team’s usual 4-3-3 to a midfield diamond spearheaded by Todd Cantwell. Danilo and Abdallah Sima started up front.

Beale had stated they had come to Geneva to win the game and Rangers attacked in the early stages but Jose Cifuentes scuffed a left-footed effort from their first shooting chance.

The visitors were soon cut open by a slick move but Jack Butland made a brilliant stop at full stretch to deny Timothe Cognat.

The home side took the lead midway through the half. John Souttar came out second best from a challenge following a long ball and both Cifuentes and Tavernier were slow to react to the danger following a blocked shot. Dereck Kutesa had time and space to execute a glorious finish into the far top corner.

The unmarked Danilo had a brilliant chance to level on the half-hour mark but the Brazilian missed the target from inside the six-yard box following Cifuentes’ deep cross.

Servette could have gone ahead in the tie when Souttar was caught trying to play offside as Kutesa ran on to a through-ball from just inside his own half. The goalscorer forced a good stop from Butland from a tight angle but he had a team-mate completely unmarked in the middle.

Rangers maintained their formation at the start of the second half but they showed more urgency and both Nicolas Raskin and Cantwell had efforts saved before Tavernier got in front of his marker and headed home from close range after Borna Barisic whipped in a dangerous cross.

Rangers looked comfortable and Raskin was wide from a half-chance before substitute Cyriel Dessers missed two good opportunities. The Nigeria international headed over and then hit the post from eight yards after being set up by Cantwell.

Servette managed to exert some late pressure but Rangers stood firm and the hosts missed two decent chances in quick succession in stoppage time.

Beale’s side now host PSV at Ibrox in the first leg of the play-offs next Tuesday.