Rangers got their Europa League campaign off to a perfect start after a 1-0 victory over Real Betis at Ibrox.

Abdallah Sima netted the only goal of the game midway through the second half as Michael Beale’s side deservedly saw off their La Liga visitors.

Rangers will now return to domestic matters with the visit of Motherwell on Sunday after a second successive win following the international break.

Pleasing night for Beale

The main ambition is always to win at Ibrox. On this occasion, it was important that Beale’s side performed as well given that the approach and the application were always going to be analysed by a demanding support.

Beale doesn’t need anyone to remind him that it hasn’t been an acceptable start to the season for Rangers. When asked what a statement win against La Liga opposition would mean for his side, he admitted that it would be a ‘big boost’ as he promised Rangers would play with energy and quality.

This was not a vintage showing on the European stage. Rangers have played to a better standard and have overcome a higher calibre of opposition more than once during recent seasons.

But this was perhaps as good as Beale could have banked on as three points and a clean sheet – a just reward for the commanding and confident presence of Jack Butland – were earned. He has set Rangers the challenge of qualifying from this section, which also includes Sparta Prague and Aris Limassol, and a home win on matchday one is the ideal start to the campaign.

The win over St Johnstone and this fine triumph have taken the heat out of the situation regarding Beale’s future and he has bought himself the time he wanted to get the best from this side. The steps are small, but they are certainly in the right direction.

Well earned win

Rangers had their best moments of the first half at either end of it. In between, it was Betis who looked the more threatening.

Rabbi Matondo should have opened the scoring inside five minutes. Sent scarpering clear down the left channel by a Kemar Roofe pass, he closed in on goal and only had keeper Claudio Brave to beat. He attempted to curl his effort into the far corner but it was a low, somewhat tame strike.

With five minutes remaining, Roofe couldn’t convert a Borna Barisic cross and Sima was thwarted as he tried to scramble home from close range.

The chances that Abdessamad Ezzalzouli spurned as he fired over from 18 yards and was then denied by Butland were clearer cut. Earlier in the half, Isco should have done better from the edge of the area.

The game was there to be won by either side. Once the teams re-emerged, it was only Rangers that looked like going on to do so as Betis found themselves on the back foot for long periods.

When the goal arrived with just over 20 minutes remaining, it had to be said that it had been coming for Beale’s side. It was an old fashioned scramble and stramash inside the area but the decisive touch came from Sima as he bundled the ball home from a couple of yards out.

Team selection pays off

The revelation that Nicolas Raskin had been ruled out until after the international break was the main news to come from Beale’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Ibrox boss, he also had to confirm that Danilo and Todd Cantwell will face similarly lengthy spells on the sidelines as he was denied the services of three influential operators at a time when he needs as many key men up to speed as possible.

Beale had fewer options than usual to choose from here but he still had two important calls to make. The first of them saw Tom Lawrence start ahead of Ryan Jack in midfield, while the second condemned Cyriel Dessers to a spot on the bench once again as he missed out on the chance to replace Danilo.

The addition of Lawrence and places for Matondo and Sima were bold calls from Beale. Rather than set out to contain Betis, it was an indication that Rangers were going to look to catch them on the break and the gameplan became evident in the early stages.

There were players on the field that had the required attacking intentions to win this one, but Beale needed composure and quality from those that he put his faith in. Too often, Rangers were lacking but he got his rewards in the end.

The loss of Lawrence with half an hour remaining didn’t help. He had come close with a drive that whistled by the target just after the break and the sight of him walking round Ibrox after being replaced by Sam Lammers was a worrying one for Rangers.

Solid and steady from Cifuentes

The absences of Cantwell and Raskin, plus summer recruit Kieran Dowell, opened the door for Jose Cifuentes to come back into the starting line-up. It was his first for Rangers since the defeat to PSV Eindhoven that ended Beale’s Champions League dreams.

Given the way in which Beale spoke about Cifuentes 24 hours previously, it was no surprise to see him get the nod here. His faith was not misplaced.

Beale insisted that the Ecuadorian was ‘ready to go’ after being given time to adjust to the city and the side following his arrival from Los Angeles FC as the final signing of the summer window. He was also given time to recover from an appearance against Argentina last week as he watched the win at McDiarmid Park from the bench.

This was a solid, steady showing from Cifuentes. He was replaced by Jack for the closing ten minutes and an appreciative round of applause from the crowd was merited for his efforts.

Operating alongside John Lundstram in the middle of the park, he was tidy at times and caught out at others. In terms of experience, it will certainly stand him in good stead and he will now look to move through the gears given the run of fixtures that Rangers have coming up over the next few weeks.

Ibrox changes its tune

Beale expressed his confidence that the home crowd would be ‘behind’ his side as they returned to Ibrox for the first time since the Old Firm defeat. That was an afternoon that has not been forgotten by a scunnered support and it was imperative that Rangers gave them reason to belief against Betis.

This was not Ibrox at its raucous, intimidating best. Indeed, it was not full, either, but there were fewer empty seats than some may have been expecting given the mood in the camp at present.

A red, white and blue tifo filled the lower half of the Broomloan Stand as the teams took to the park. For the first time since that emotional win over RB Leipzig, the Europa League music reverberated around the ground as the teams were given a hearty welcome. Soon, Ibrox fell silent to pay tribute to legendary defender Ronnie MacKinnon following his death at the age of 83.

When the action got underway, there wasn’t enough to keep the crowd inspired. The closing stages of the half were encouraging and the punters responded but a series of sloppy mistakes or wasteful decisions had frustrated those in the stands for most of the evening.

A Barisic free-kick that rattled the bar sparked a reaction. When Sima bundled it home, the decibel levels peaked and Ibrox knew a win was in sight.

It was soon confirmed. That received the loudest cheer of the night. It was job done for Rangers.