Benfica beat Rangers 1-0 at Ibrox to reach the Europa League quarter-finals

Benfica advanced to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after a hard fought 1-0 victory over Rangers at Ibrox.

Anatolii Trubin denied Tom Lawrence early on and Cyriel Dessers’s shot was deflected wide just after half-time.

Casper Tengstedt came off the bench and couldn’t convert a presentable chance, the decisive moment coming in the 66th minute when Benfica’s danger men combined with lethal effect.

Ángel Di María released Rafa Silva who ran clear and scored, initially ruled offside before VAR revealed he was narrowly inside his own half.

Philippe Clement brought on his big guns but Trubin wasn’t tested, the Eagles closing it out to become the first Portuguese club to beat Rangers at Ibrox in 12 attempts. 

Trubin tested

It was an exciting start in Glasgow, both teams pressing high with the energy in the stadium flowing into the pitch.

Rangers broke clear following a Benfica corner, Fábio Silva combining well with Tom Lawrence who nearly squeezed the ball through Anatolii Trubin. The goalkeeper was fortunate to divert the ball wide after it had travelled through his legs.

Benfica would fashion their first chance from a Rangers corner at the other end, the Eagles breaking clear before Fredrik Aursnes saw his low drive saved.

There was applause and a banner for Thomas McAllister, a young Rangers fan who died in a hotel in Lisbon during the first leg last week.

Marcos Leonardo headed wide in the 31st minute after Ángel Di María’s shot was blocked. The Argentine then tried his luck from distance before a cross resulted in Rafa’s shot being deflected wide.

Scott Wright was looking dangerous, trying to turn the tide with a long run but Rangers unable to capitalize before the break.

Dessers and Tengstedt can't convert

Roger Schmidt brought on Casper Tengstedt on for Leonardo but it was Rangers who went close minutes after the restart. Wright got past Aursnes and Florentino and presented Cyriel Dessers with a chance, Aursnes doing well to get back and divert the ball narrowly past the post.

It continued to be Di María running the show for the Eagles, the Argentine seeing successive shots blocked. He then instigated an attack which ended in Aursnes teeing up Tengstedt, the striker spurning a great chance which went straight to Jack Butland.

Rafa to the rescue

Orkun Kökçü replaced David Neres in the 65th minute and less than 60 seconds later Benfica took the decisive lead.

Once again we saw a team vulnerable from their own set piece, Rangers paying the price after failing to nullify a clearance at the half-way line. Rafa broke clear and scored, initially ruled offside before VAR found him inside his own half when Di María sent him clear.

Eagles close it out

Philippe Clement reacted by bringing on Rabbi Matondo, Todd Cantwell and Kemar Roofe but chances were proving hard to come by.

Benfica created two opportunities in quick succession, Butland tipping Bah’s shot wide before António Silva was unable to steer the resulting corner on target.

Rangers were sending players forward with the time ticking away, John Lundstram’s weak shot not testing Trubin who then watched on as Cantwell fired the final chance wide.

Benfica get it done

Benfica did well to overcome the hostile atmosphere and wet conditions at Ibrox, Rangers previously undefeated in all 11 games against Portuguese opposition in Glasgow. It was the Eagles’ first victory in Scotland since 1960, a run of five games.

Roger Schmidt has found more stability with Florentino and João Neves in midfield and it showed with Anatolii Trubin rarely troubled after his early save to deny Tom Lawrence.

It was no surprise where the winner came from. Ángel Di María has been Benfica’s match winner on multiple occasions this season, this time he turned provider with a clever assist for Rafa Silva.

Rafa’s 18th goal of the season saw the 30-year-old join a select group of Portuguese players with 20+ goals in UEFA competitions including Eusébio, Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Add 11 assists to his tally this season, Rafa has successfully stepped up to cover some of the production vacated by Álex Grimaldo and Gonçalo Ramos.

Benfica are into the quarter-finals of a European competition for the 3rd consecutive season and will eagerly await the draw tomorrow afternoon.

By Matthew Marshall