Rangers got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start with Abdallah Sima bagging a second-half goal to hand the Teddy Bears a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Betis at Ibrox Stadium.
Having previously gone six games without a home defeat in the Europa League, Rangers were hoping to build the impressive statistic but were pegged back early on.
They started the game with vigour and attacking intent, but the Spanish side ultimately grew into the game and controlled the tempo, with Rangers keeping their shape.
However, the first chance of the game fell to Michael Beale’s side, with Rabbi Matondo going one-on-one with Claudio Bravo, but he failed to outfox the veteran goalkeeper, who was equal to his curling effort.
After the early scare, Betis responded with a threat of their own as Abde Ezzalzouli beat the offside trap before forcing a fine save from Rangers goalie Jack Butland.
Betis continued with relentless pressure but Rangers maintained their defensive shape and weathered the storm before getting a few chances of their own to take the lead ahead of the half-time interval.
Brighton & Hove Albion loanee Sima forced another save from Bravo with an effort from the edge of the box before Matondo failed to hit the target with the final chance of the half.
Rangers emerged from the half-time break firing on all cylinders, with Matondo nearly giving his side the lead again, latching on to Sima’s cross, but Hector Bellerin was on hand to put out the danger.
Minutes later, Tom Lawrence rifled a ferocious effort from distance, but the right-hand post denied him a stunning goal.
Betis found themselves firmly on the back foot, and Manuel Pellegrini’s side had the woodwork to thank again as Borna Barisic let fly with a well-taken free-kick, but his effort could only find the crossbar.
The all-important goal finally arrived from Sima, who was in the right place at the right time to poke the ball into an empty net after a corner had caused a scramble in the six-yard area.
Sima’s strike was enough to hand Rangers maximum points in their Group C curtain raiser, and Beale’s side will now switch their attention to Sunday’s fixture against Motherwell.
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