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Malmo 2-1 Rangers: Late Steven Davis strike gives Rangers Champions League qualifying lifeline

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Match report as Soren Rieks and Veljko Birmancevic score within two minutes in the second half; Steven Davis strike sees Rangers pull a goal back in the Champions League third-round qualifying first leg; Rangers welcome Malmo to Ibrox next Tuesday as they look to overturn the deficit.

Steven Davis’ late strike handed Rangers a much-needed lifeline in their Champions League third-round qualifier, losing the first leg 2-1 at Malmo.

Steven Gerrard’s side had seen the better of the chances in the opening half. Ryan Kent was involved in many of the good attacking moves, including a blocked shot just before the break.

But Rangers were sucker punched early in the second period, playing in front of a raucous home crowd. Soren Reiks slotted home the opener in the 47th minute, before Veljko Birmancevic (49) – who had set him up – saw a shot home via the bottom of the post to ultimately seal the victory for the hosts.

However, there was late drama to be had when, with the last kick of the game, Davis (90+5) fired home from the edge of the box to half the deficit and give Rangers a fighting chance.

It still leaves the Scottish Premiership champions with a huge task on Tuesday, when they welcome Malmo to Ibrox and attempt to set up a Champions League play-off tie with either Ludogorets or Olympiakos.

How Malmo won the first leg

Malmo's Vejko Birmancevic celebrates his goal to make it 2-0
Image:Malmo’s Vejko Birmancevic celebrates his goal to make it 2-0

The first half was a rather even affair – so much so that both sides saw their first shots of the game within a minute of each other. Rangers struck first, but Scott Arfield’s effort was an easy collection for Johan Dahlin. At the other end, Jo Inge Berget cut in from the right before striking, but forced a good save from Allan McGregor.

Rangers continued to see the better chances though. Kent sped away down the left, but his cross into the box evaded Scott Wright, who had slipped over. Just after, it was another superb break, but Wright’s ball in was cut out by Lasse Nielsen.

Player ratings

Malmo: Dahlin (6), Moisander (6), Rieks (7), Lewicki (6), Colak (6), Christiansen (7), Ahemdhodzic (6), Birmancevic, (7) Innocent (5), Nielsen (5), Berget (5).

Subs used: Nalic (5), Abubakari (n/a), Beijmo (n/a), Rakip (n/a).

Rangers: McGregor (6), Tavernier (7), Goldson (7), Helander (6), Barisic (6), Davis (6), Lundstram (6), Arfield (7), Wright (8), Kent (8), Itten (5).

Subs used: Sakala (6).

Man of the match: Ryan Kent.

It was the Malmo defender who again thwarted another Rangers attack just before the break. James Tavernier made a great steal inside his own half before driving down the right flank. He picked out Kent at the top of the area, but despite working himself into good space, his effort was blocked by Nielsen before being booted away from danger.

Team news

  • Rangers made seven changes from the weekend’s league victory. Allan McGregor, Fillip Helander, Borna Barisic, John Lundstram, Scott Arfield, Scott Wright and Cedric Itten all came into the XI, replacing Jon McLaughlin, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Glen Kamara, Ianis Hagi, Joe Aribo and Fashion Sakala.
  • Glen Kamara, Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe were all suspended.

But Rangers made the worst possible start to the second half as Malmo netted two quickfire goals. Birmancevic worked himself into some good space in the area and found an unmarked Rieks towards the back post. It was then a curling finish past McGregor to see the hosts ahead.

With the Rangers defence in disarray, Malmo added their second two minutes later in a similar fashion. Having just set up the opener, Birmancevic was somehow left unmarked over on the right. He collected a pass before sweeping home into the far corner via the bottom of the post, with Connor Goldson unable to keep it out.

Rangers' Scott Wright looks dejected as Malmo players celebrate their opening goal
Image:Rangers still have plenty to do in the second leg at Ibrox on Tuesday

Malmo only grew in confidence after the goals, and Rangers could not muster much until the latter stages. Wright cut in from the left, picking out summer signing Fashion Sakala in the middle, but the striker just lifted his effort wide. In added time, Wright had an appeal for a penalty turned down after contact from Nielsen inside the area.

But Rangers’ best moment of the game was to come. It was no surprise to see Kent involved, twisting and turning on the right before picking out Davis at the top of the area. It was then a wonderful striker that flew into the back of the net, giving the visitors a vital lifeline ahead of the second leg.

Gerrard calls for Ibrox help for second leg

Steven Gerrard
Image:Steven Gerrard has asked for help from the Ibrox crowd on Tuesday

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard to RangersTV: “I’m disappointed with the results and the couple of goals we’ve conceded. But there’s been a big moment at the end of that game which is has gone in our favour. It’s a big moment and sets things up for next week.

“It’s not the position we wanted to be in, but it’s better than going in [to the second leg] at 2-0, and we were also on the verge of maybe going even worse as well. Injury time was very big for us, but over the 90 minutes, it hasn’t bene enough.

“We’ll have to go up a level individually and collectively next week and I’m going to call on the Ibrox crowd. I’ve never done it before, but we’re going to need them for the full 90 minutes in full voice.

“With that behind us and the mentality change behind us, it could be a big moment.

“I’m running out of plaudits for Davo [Steven Davis], he is someone who doesn’t give up and keeps going until the end and he’s provided a real big moment that’s given us an important lifeline going into next week.

“It is what it is. I don’t think we deserved to win the game 2-0 or any worse than that. At half-time, we were OK, I thought we were in a good shape. We were looking the most likely [to score], but we lost our way for four or five minutes and conceded two poor goals.

“But we pushed and showed belief, and Davo has provided a very big moment because the mentality has changed in injury time.”

Man of the match – Ryan Kent

MALMO, SWEDEN - AUGUST 03: Rangers' Ryan Kent (left) ic challenged by Bonke Innocent during a Champions League qualifier between Malmo and Rangers at the Eleda Stadion, on August 03, 2021, in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo by Christoffer Borg Mattisson / SNS Group)
Image:Ryan Kent was key in Rangers’ attacking play

It was another good performance from Kent, who was the key driving force behind Rangers’ attacking play. It was his quick feet that help create the goal, and he will be vital in the second leg.

Credit too must also go to Wright, who also did well when trusted by Gerrard in such a big game.

What’s next?

Dundee United
Rangers

Saturday 7th August 12:00pmKick off 12:30pmSky Sports Football HD

Rangers travel to Dundee United on Saturday in the Scottish Premiership, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12.30pm. They will then welcome Malmo to Ibrox on Tuesday evening; kick-off 8pm.

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How AC Milan missed out on Ghanaian youngster Felix Afena-Gyan

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Afena Gyan scores brace for AS Roma against Genoa

Afena-Gyan makes Serie A record

Afena-Gyan valued at €20m

Ghanaian youngster Felix Afena-Gyan may be excelling for AS Roma but he could have ended up at rivals AC Milan.

The youngster has risen from the youth side of the Italian giants and taking a spot on the first team where he is in the process of establishing himself as a key cog in Jose Mourinho’s side.

His two goals in AS Roma’s victory over Genoa made him the first player born in 2003 to score in the Italian top flight league.

It has however emerged that Afena-Gyan was once on the books AC Milan and could have had his development in Milan instead of Rome.

Oliver Arthur, the Ghanaian football agent credited with the discovery of the 18-year-old has revealed that Afena-Gyan had trials with AC Milan who were interested in signing him.

Oliver Arthur says the choice of AS Roma as the club for Afena-Gyan was informed by his quest to get a place where the youngster’s development was not going to be impeded.

“He initially had trials at AS Roma, then Sassuolo before going to AC Milan. Milan, just like the other clubs, was very much interested in him. But, we needed to make a decision and look at the best for the player and we settled on AS Roma,” he said Kumasi-based Pure FM.

Oliver Arthur also spoken about how the youngster’s stock has risen since he broke into the first team of AS Roma.

He disclosed that Afena-Gyan is now valued at €20million following his good display for AS Roma.

“It will really be difficult. Very difficult. Range? May be between €15m-€20m. For what he’s done and the abilities he possesses, I think, yes, €20m” he told Angel TV

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Africa to use VAR in World Cup play-offs after Ghana vs South Africa incident

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Ghana defeats South Africa 1-0

South Africa petitions FIFA over penalty in Ghana game

Senegalese referee to be punished by FIFA, says South Africa coach

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be used in the final phase of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Gianni Infantino, the President of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) has said.

Infantino has disclosed that FIFA and CAF will use the technology in the play-off to improve officiating in those matches.

Speaking at the extraordinary general assembly of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Cairo, Egypt Infantino said FIFA is making efforts to enhance the quality of matches and introduction of VAR is one of the measures.

“The final stage of the African World Cup qualifiers will see an improvement in refereeing performance due to the use of VAR,” said Infantino.

The President of CAF, Patrice Motsepe who is a South African refused to comment on the specific case of Ghana versus South Africa but promised an investment in officiating.

“We are going to invest in the competitions because our competitions are everything,” said Motsepe.

“That’s why the announcement that we are making today regarding referees is critically important. Africa have got good referees, and we have got world-class referees. We’ve also got referees who are not so good.

“Then we’ve also got referees who are even further from not so good, but they all try. We want to train them, and also pay them good money and look after them. So that they can make a career out of being referees.”

Ghana defeated South Africa 1-0 at the Cape Coast Stadium on November 14, 2021 via a controversial penalty.

Defender Daniel Amartey earned Ghana the penalty which was converted by skipper Andre Ayew on the 33rd minute.

South Africa took issues with the decision by referee Ndiaye and petitioned FIFA to probe what they perceive to be match manipulation.

According to SAFA, the referee was compromised and thus ruled the game in favour of the host team.

The Ghana Football Association has meanwhile disputed the claims and emphasized the Black Stars deserved victory.

It is expected FIFA will issue a verdict on the game in the coming days.

The draw for the play-off will be held in January next year after the Africa Cup of Nations.

The ten countries that have qualified include Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

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Forget about replay FIFA, will only ban referee Ndiaye Maguette – Hugo Broos

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It appears that head coach of South Africa, Hugo Broos has given up hope of forcing a replay of the 2022 World Cup qualifier against Ghana from FIFA.

The Black Stars defeated the Bafana Bafana of South Africa by a lone goal to secure the only slot in group G for the play offs of the 2022 World Cup.

South Africa after the game accused the match official of match fixing, match manipulation among others before lodging an official complaint with FIFA.

Ghana had a penalty after Daniel Amartey went to ground in the penalty box following a challenge from Rushine De Reuck although it appeared soft there was a nudge in the back of the Leicester City defender.

The Senegalese referee Ndiaye Maguette who was standing just a few meters outside the penalty box swiftly awarded the penalty without any second thought.

FIFA urged the two Associations that is Ghana and South Africa to present any comments or evidence it deems appropriate latest by 20th November 2021 as they referred the protest to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee who began their work on 23rd November,2021.

FIFA is now due to issue a verdict on that appeal which has created friction between Ghana and South Africa in football circles.

Ahead of the verdict, South Africa’s Belgian tactician doesn’t seem confident.

“Fifa met on Tuesday,” Broos told HLN Sportcast. “We expect a decision in the course of this week. It’s not just about the penalty kick, it’s about the whole game. The referee made 71 decisions, 47 of which were foul. The analysis has shown that. And 90 percent of those 47 wrong decisions were against us.”

“You have to be able to prove something like that in black and white. Was he bribed? Wasn’t he pressured? Or was he just having a really bad day? The numbers are there, but is that enough for FIFA? I personally think that it will remain with a suspension for the referee and that we should not count on a replay.” he said.

The draw for the play offs will come off in January while the matches will be played in March 2022.

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