Rangers 1-1 NK Osiek (2-1 agg): Nikola Katic seals Europa League progress

Nikola Katic helped see off Croatian compatriots Osijek as his second-half goal was enough to steer Rangers through with a 1-1 Europa League draw at Ibrox.

The centre-half headed home from close range eight minutes into the second half as Rangers extended the lead given to them by Alfredo Morelos’ first-leg strike.

Borna Barisic became the first player to net against Steven Gerrard’s side with his last-minute strike, but the hosts clung on for a 2-1 aggregate win to set up a meeting with Slovenians Maribor in the third qualifying round.

With only a slender lead from last week’s clash at the City Garden Stadium, there was always bound to be an anxious air round Ibrox.

Lassana Coulibaly should have settled the nerves four minutes in but blazed over from close range after being picked out from Ryan Kent’s corner.

Osijek’s pressing early on forced Gers deep, but it was the hosts who almost came close to landing a sucker punch as Ryan Jack sent Morelos scampering in behind. The angle was against the Colombian, though, as Osijek goalkeeper Marko Malenica gathered his low strike.

It was tense, competitive stuff. But having survived a few those scares, Rangers grew in belief.

Only a last-gasp lunge by Alex Grgic early in the second period stopped Kent delivering a devastating blow as he connected with Coulibaly’s ball to the back post.

But that only delayed the inevitable and from the resulting corner, Gers struck. Malencia missed his attempted punched from Kent’s delivery, Morelos nodded the ball back into the danger area and Katic got the decisive touch with his head to put daylight between the sides.

Some more composure might have seen them put the tie to bed completely, but Kent slashed at fresh air while Coulibaly almost hit the corner flag as two decent openings came and went in embarrassing fashion.

The tension rose in the final minute when Barisic fired a deflected shot past McGregor to become the first player to net against Gerrard’s Gers, but the hosts held on to progress.

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