Rangers came from behind to overcome Rapid Vienna at Ibrox with two goals from Alfredo Morelos contributing to a 3-1 win – a victory that places the Light Blues at the summit of their group.
Steven Gerrard made two changes from the Livingston debacle with Jon Flanagan and Ryan Kent coming in for Borna Barisic and Kyle Lafferty.
Both sides were cautious in the opening exchanges with Rangers arguably affording their opponents too much respect as they probed on the break rather than taking the game to their opponents.
Indeed, it was Rapid who were first to threaten with a break down the left, Veton Berisha’s pace beating the offside trap to send over a cross that was headed inches wide of the far post by Andrija Pavlovic in the 21st minute.
There was a distinct lack of clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities with defences on top and the respective midfields cancelling each other out.
The game exploded in controversy on 41 minutes when Andrei Ivan broke down the right from a blatantly offside position after Joe Worrall had been barged off the ball in mid-air by Pavlovic.
To compound the matter Ivan’s low cross broke to Berisha who made no mistake to slot the ball home.
It was a shocking decision by linesman Amaury Delerue in failing to signal for offside – and by French Referee Ruddy Buquet in awarding the goal.
The decision so incensed the 47,534 crowd as well as the ‘Gers players themselves that the decibels rose to an even louder crescendo, as within two minutes the scores were level when Scott Arfield released Daniel Candeias down the right, his low cross being turned home from close range by Alfredo Morelos.
All square at the interval, Rangers piled forward after the break in search of the lead down both wings with Candeias and Kent stretching the Austrian back line.
Rapid’s defence held firm however as wave after wave of Light Blue attacks broke down on the edge of the area.
Midway through the second-half from a Candeias cross a powerful header from Ovie Ejaria looked net-bound until clawed away by visiting goalkeeper Richard Strebinger.
Just when it appeared that a second goal would never come, it appeared in the 84th minute – from the penalty spot after Mario Sonnleitner had chopped down Morelos.
It was a clear penalty – and James Tavernier made no mistake from the spot.
As Rapid poured forward in a desperate search for a late equaliser, the Light Blues hit the visitors on the counter-attack with Candeias winning possession on the halfway line before back-heeling the ball into the path of Morelos, who strode forward to slot home past the advancing Strebinger into the net.
Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Flanagan; Candeias, Ejaria, Arfield, Coulibaly, Kent (Halliday 89); Morelos (Middleton 90)
Unused Subs: Foderingham, Katic, Barisic, Grezda, Lafferty
Rapid Vienna: Strebinger; Muldur, Barac (Dibon 33), Sonnleitner, Potzmann; Ivan (Alar 58), Murg, Schwab, Ljubicic, Berisha (Bolingoli 72); Pavlovic
Unused Subs: Knoflach, Martic, Auer, Knasmullner
Referee: Ruddy Buquet (France)