Rangers moved to within touching distance of a place in the Europa League knockout round with victory over Sparta Prague at Ibrox.

First-half goals from Danilo and Todd Cantwell were enough to secure another fine win for Philippe Clement’s side. Vaclav Sejk gave the Czech’s hope late on, but Rangers earned a merited triumph.

The Rangers Review picks apart the big talking points below...

A night of mixed emotions

At half-time, there was a feeling inside Ibrox that this could be as many as Rangers wanted it to be. In the end, the three points earned for the win were more important than the margin of the success. Prague had shown virtually nothing in an attacking sense and looked susceptible every time Rangers moved into the final third. It was as commanding and as comfortable a night as Clement could have hoped for after the goals from Danilo and Cantwell had put them well on their way to the win. Clement wishes his side to be dominant in possession, to create chances and not concede them. The first half here encapsulated those points and were further evidence of the transformational effect that he has had in such a short space of time. Rangers were on the front foot from the off. As a result, the Ibrox crowd came with them and the pre-match display of ‘by your side we’re loyal and true’ was ringing true. It took until the final quarter of an hour for the crowd to really find their voice after the break, though. Perhaps there was a sense that the job was done and that seemed to feed into those on the park as Rangers went through the motions at times. The air of anxiousness that was evident in the seconds after Sejk gave the visitors a chance looked to be short-lived when Danilo found the net once again. A VAR check ruled out the effort, though, and six minutes of added time saw tempers become frayed. It was nervier than it needed to be and should have been. It turned into a mixed evening for Clement but the result will always be the main positive to take for the Ibrox boss.

Chris Jack

Cantwell answers a key question

Todd Cantwell was brought off for Scott Wright at Hampden on Sunday and although a yellow card likely had something to do with Clement’s call, there’s been a growing feeling that a role from the right doesn’t allow Cantwell to best showcase the obvious abilities he possesses. Of course, with James Tavernier providing width the requirement isn’t for the No.13 to perform a touchline-hugging winger role but even stillm rather than cutting onto his favoured right side if playing from the left, Cantwell’s being asked to attack at different angles. Tonight showed why, although many would rightly still prefer to see him as this side’s No.10, a player of his quality can make the difference whenever space is on offer. In a game more open than the weekend’s, there’s room for the attacker to move into central pockets. Cantwell’s goal was a moment of proper quality, relying on the run of Lammers to create a through ball for Danilo and then using Gomez’s recovering momentum against him to chop inside and find the far corner. The game slowed after the break and Ross McCausland replaced Cantwell around 70 minutes, with the youngster quickly creating and enjoying the angles possible when opening the game on his left. Tonight was an example that yes, Cantwell can play from the right, especially in a match with space where he’s afforded positional freedom. McCausland’s cameo also demonstrated the benefits of a left-footer out wide but whatever line-up Clement selects, a Cantwell getting closer to full fitness must be included.

Joshua Barrie

Danilo the difference again

Two goals in eight first half minutes had Rangers out of sight. It was a night of many positives and shared plaudits as a handful of excellent individual performances contributed to a terrific team showing at Ibrox. Clement is not one to single out his players for praise and he prefers to focus on the collective. It would be remiss not to give a special mention to Danilo, though, as he continues to make a profound difference to the Rangers forward line. The Brazilian scored the first, set up the second and could have added to his tally before the break. Flanked by the impressive Abdallah Sima and Cantwell, Danilo led the line with aplomb. He was alert and on the front foot as he capitalised on the slack play of James Gomez. After pressing well and winning the ball on the edge of the area, he produced a cool, composed finish to set Rangers on their way. Within minutes, Danilo had played his part once again. This time it was all about the pass as he slipped in Cantwell. The Englishman did the rest in some style. A VAR check denied Danilo his second goal of the night and he was soon replaced by Cyriel Dessers. Once again, the Brazilian had done his bit and played his part. Danilo has become the focal point of this side. His intelligent movement creates time and space for himself and others and he provides a goal threat that Rangers have lacked so often this term.

Chris Jack

Sima spearheads the attack 

Cantwell’s moment of quality summarised what the home side did so effectively attacking an unsettled Sparta Prague side before half time. Rangers constantly drew in the away side’s press to create space that their front four could then exploit, before targeting a diagonal at Abdallah Sima. The attacker, able to occupy and run the visitors all day long, attracted two men which quickly created an overload for his side on their right, Danilo dropped at the correct time to offer a passing option, Lammers’ intelligent decoy run took Gomez’s attention away from Cantwell who then did the rest.

After that goal, Sparta could be seen re-huddling, holding an in-game inquest as their Europa League prospects on the night and in the group looked set to fade into the Govan sky. The Ibrox side were comfortable and confident without being at their best and the tactical approach was simple, inviting the press and playing into it, relying on the quality of their front four to make good of the space and battles that arrived. Clement, ever irate and never satisfied with his team’s position, could be seen almost playing Borna Barisic’s pass for him into the onrushing Sima around the hour. It was clear to the coach, and the stadium, that the away side were in no mood to defend the Senegalese forward’s running power. 

Joshua Barrie

Knock-out spot now within sight 

That abject night against Aris feels like such a long time ago now for Rangers. Much has, of course, changed since that particular European embarrassment. Rangers headed for home pointless and managerless after a wretched night in Cyprus but redemption will now bring two benefits on Matchday Five. Rangers will feel that Aris are owed one and the win that should follow will see Clement’s side move into the knockout round. That was the ambition at the start of this campaign. Fears that it might not materialise now look unfounded after this fine win made it four points from the two fixtures with Prague and the job that was started at Ibrox with victory over Real Betis should be finished on home soil later this month. Clement will not make any proclamations about what Rangers can go on to achieve in this competition. If Aris are taken care of and a place in the next round is secured, the Belgian will not look any further that the trip to Seville when top spot – and the benefits that come with it – will be on the line. Domestic matters will, and must, take precedence for Clement in the coming weeks but the momentum and confidence that winning on the continent brings can be carried into the Premiership title race and the bid for cup medals. Clement has spoken about wanting to win every competition that Rangers are in this term. That ambition is unlikely in the Europa League but it continues to prove a valuable experience all round.

Chris Jack