Rangers remain imperious in this domain. Each year, the opposition barring their path has improved. Each year, Steven Gerrard and his players have navigated a way through.
A 19th qualifying match without defeat means Europa League group stage football will visit Ibrox for a third successive season. This achievement, though, can stand a little above the admirable efforts of the previous two campaigns.
Unlocking a prize fund of up to £10million demanded intelligence and diligence against a Galatasaray side who competed in the Champions League last time round.
Scott Arfield celebrates putting Rangers 1-0 up at Ibrox against Galatasaray on Thursday night
Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Arfield after Rangers took the lead against Galatasaray
James Tarvernier’s header made it 2-0 to Rangers, which proved to be the winning goal
Tavernier was mobbed by his delighted Rangers team mates after the final whistle
Gerrard’s side produced precisely what was needed, displaying all the experience they harvested on the continental stage.
After a tense, tight first half, goals from Scott Arfield and captain James Tavernier – his seventh in seven games – propelled Rangers into the draw at UEFA HQ in Nyon this lunchtime. The nerves created by Marcao’s 87th minute response only served to heighten delight at full-time.
For Gerrard, the reasons why are obvious. Aside from prestige, the Ibrox manager expressed a belief on Wednesday that his remaining transfer plans could hinge on European progression. Attempts to secure another midfielder ahead of Monday’s deadline can now be stepped up.
This competition has already provided the means to rebuild and strengthen Gerrard’s squad. What happens over the next four days could also have an obvious influence on the attempt to stop Celtic from winning a tenth successive Premiership title.
That task will resume when Ross County visit on Sunday. Before then, Rangers are entitled to savour this slaying of a Turkish giant. It also stands a huge result for Scotland’s coefficient in the bid to bring an automatic Champions League place back these shores.
It was achieved amid emotional sub-plots. Alfredo Morelos didn’t score but came out on top against hero Falcao. Then there was Ianis Hagi.
Born in Istanbul when dad Gheorghe was creating a legend a Galatasaray, the 21-year-old Romanian provided the assist for Arfield’s invaluable opener.
Gerrard’s team selection was a simple process. Rested to protect a tight groin in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Motherwell, Borna Barisic returned to left-back as expected. Hagi was restored ahead of Jordan Jones, while fit-again Ryan Jack was left on the bench to avoid disrupting a midfield trio that had shone in its previous two outings.
Rangers conceded three minutes from the end through Teixeira but they managed to hold on
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard and Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim exchanged heated words
Former West Ham United winger Sofiane Feghouli started for the Turkish side in Glasgow
Falcao’ presence at the spearhead of Galatasaray’s line-up reminded of the continuing strength of Galatasaray. With coronavirus biting across the continent, however, their need for the the finance of group stage qualification was no less acute than their host’s.
It was Ranger who displayed the early urgency. On the front foot from the start, Gerrard’s men sought to pull their opponents out of shape with quick passing that sought to maximise the wing-back raids of Tavernier and Borna Barisic.
The latter delivered a fourth minute corner headed down by Connor Goldson to prompt handball appeals against Martin Linnes. Two weekend spot-kick offences had arrived from those offences at Fir Park, but Latvian referee Andris Treimanis was unmoved here.
A swift break then led to Tavernier sweeping in the most tempting of deliveries from the right flank. Arfield timed his run from midfield almost to perfection, the ball evading his sliding attempt to connect by millimetres.
The Ibrox men came closer still on 11 minutes by an already familiar route. Another Barisic corner was aimed deep for Goldson. This time, a powerful header was diverted over the bar by the smart reactions of Galatasaray centre-back Christian Luyindama.
Rangers’ Colombian international Alrfredo Morelos has scored five goals so far this season
Galatasaray pushed Rangers all the way forcing a late goal but ultimately it wasn’t enough
It was a frustrating night for the Turkish side, who must now focus on domestic football
It was an intervention that ensured the Turks weathered the early storm. Inevitably, they began to push back. Rangers’ control of midfield eroded for a spell as Younes Belhanda started to show his play making class.
A Ryan Babel cross from the left could have been converted by Sofiane Feghouli had Barisic not tracked to deny him sufficient space.
Then Goldson and Arfield got in a mix-up that allowed the visitors to spring forward. The ball was worked to Feghouli at the edge, with Rangers exuding a collective sigh of relief when the Algerian midfielder blazed hopelessly high. It was his cross that led to Galatasaray’s turn for a dismissed handball shout – against Arfield.
Gerrard’s team often seemed reluctant to press too high. As it was, though, their best chance from the remainder of the first half came when Luyindama’s forward pass was blocked by Kent. The space was there, but Alfredo Morelos and Hagi couldn’t combine to exploit it.
A clearer opening followed just 55 seconds after the restart. A lovely run down the left by Kent ended up with a cross stood up nicely for Morelos. The Colombian couldn’t get quite enough power behind his header, however, and goalkeeper Faith Ozturk was able to grasp.
Galatasaray sit third in the Turkish league and have taken seven pints from their three games
Filip Helander had to produce an excellent block on Feghouli at the other end, but this time Rangers would be rewarded for starting a half with purpose. The vital breakthrough arrived on 52 minutes – via a beautifully constructed move.
Tavernier fizzed a low forward pass that Morelos allowed to run to Hagi. By this point, Arfield was already on the move. His instinctive understanding of how and when the attack space was rewarded when Hagi rolled a perfectly weighted angled ball in front of him.
There was still work to do, but Arfield did with style. A lovely finish off the outside of his right foot beat Ozturk and shot confidence through the veins of his team-mates.
That new assurance was rewarded by a doubling of the advantage seven minutes. Barisic worked hard to get to the touchline, with his cross looping high from an Omar Elabdellaoui deflection.
It took it from one full-back to another. Tavernier closed in, towering above Martin Linnes to head high into the net.
Marcao headed home a corner in the 87th minute to create anxiety but Rangers emerged with another sizeable scalp.
Steven Gerrard couldn’t contain his delight after steering Rangers to the group stages