Legia Warsaw and Rangers played out a 0-0 draw in Poland this evening, leaving this Europa League qualifier firmly in the balance.
Story of the match
Despite encouragement from the highly vocal and partisan crowd, the Scottish side largely controlled the first half. The away team dominated possession for long spells, forcing Legia to adopt a defensive formation normally employed by visiting teams in Europe. Sheyi Ojo had the best chance of the half, but headed wide, while the hosts replied with efforts from Luquinhas, Sandro Kulenovic and Cafu.
Poles come out stronger after half-time
Legia undoubtedly came out stronger after the break. Lewczuk had the first clear chance of the second half, heading just over from a corner before the same player missed another headed chance from Gvilia’s free-kick.
However, it was not all one-way traffic, as Rangers then created the best chance of the match. A clinical Scott Arfield pass split the defence and sent Alfredo Morelos clear one-on-one, only to be denied by Majecki in the Legia goal. With a quarter of an hour to go, it was Alan McGregor’s turn to keep his team level, with the veteran keeper getting down low to deny André Martins.
With no further clear chances created, the game finished in a stalemate which just about reflected the balance of play over 90 minutes. While Rangers largely controlled the first period, Legia had the better of the second 45. Rangers will be delighted to have kept a clean sheet, but having both controlled the game for long periods and had the best chance of the match, will be disappointed not to be returning home with an away goal.
Takeaways from the match
Rangers may rue not scoring tonight
Rangers have much to be pleased with tonight. A clean sheet and a confident, controlled European performance have given them a slight edge for the second leg. However, a 0-0 first leg is no longer the triumph for the away team and near disaster for the home side that it was once assumed to be. While Legia will be disappointed with tonight’s result, a score draw in Glasgow will take them through. Score the first goal, and they’re strong favourites. While Rangers will be confident of scoring at least once at home, the cushion of an away goal - which Ojo could and Morelos really should have provided - may come back to haunt them. Legia may not be world-beaters, but they’re more than capable of getting a draw at Ibrox. Chances have to be taken at this level.
Another confident display, another sign of progress
Despite the above warning about failing to score, it’s a measure of how far Rangers have come under Steven Gerrard that there’s a tinge of disappointment about a 0-0 draw away from home at this stage of the competition. Legia Warsaw isn’t going to win this competition, but they’re streets ahead of a certain other side Rangers lost to in Europe only two years ago. Tonight, Rangers created the clear cut openings, dominated possession for long periods, and played with the confidence of a side who feel they belong in the group stages of this tournament. Keep playing like they have so far this term, and they quite possibly do. The fact that tonight’s result isn’t really a surprise is a big compliment to both Gerrard and Rangers. The fact that it may even be a tiny bit disappointing given the chances they created is a bigger one.