Ten-man Rangers fought a heroic rear-guard action to draw 0-0 with Villarreal at Ibrox night and maintain their unbeaten home European record after Daniel Candeias was ordered off in the closing seconds of the first-half.
The two sides had earlier met in the opening Group Stage fixture in Spain when a late Kyle Lafferty goal secured a 2-2 draw – but the Northern Ireland International striker was on the substitutes’ bench, one of four changes made by Steven Gerrard from the starting 11 against Livingston last Saturday with Joe Worrall, Jon Flanagan, Lassana Coulibaly and Alfredo Morelos coming in for Gareth McAuley, Andy Halliday, Ove Ejaria and Lafferty.
The first real chance of the night fell to the Light Blues when from a Daniel Candeias cross the ball fell to Scott Arfield some 20 yards out, his shot comfortably held by visiting ‘keeper Andres Fernandez.
The ‘Yellow Submarine’ soon made their presence felt however – a break down the right by Karl Toko Ekambi ending with a low driven cross that the inrushing Carlos Bacca only just failed to connect with.
Villareal went close when Ekambi beat the offside trap to race through on goal only to be thwarted by the outrushing Allan McGregor.
With the interval fast approaching Flanagan almost gifted Villarreal the opener when his mistimed pass to Worrall presented Ekambi with a clear sight of goal only for McGregor to produce a superb one-handed save.
The half ended in controversy and bitter recriminations however when a blatant foul on James Tavernier by Santiago Caseres was ignored by Slovenian Referee Matej Jug.
Caseres in turn was then felled by Candeias who then received his second yellow card of the evening, having been earlier booked for a foul on Jaume Costa.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession Villarreal were creating few clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities – although substitute Gerard Moreno did test McGregor in the 64th minute with a 20-yard shot that the ‘keeper held.
Kyle Lafferty was introduced in place of Alfredo Morelos – and the Ulsterman almost made an immediate impact when his 25-yard left-foot drive was turned over at full stretch by Andres Fernandez.
The traffic was still heading mostly towards McGregor’s goal however – substitute Samu Chukweze cutting in from the right in the 82nd minute only to see his left-foot angled shot beaten away by McGregor as the game ended scoreless.
Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan; Candeias, Jack, Arfield, Coulibaly (McCrorie 90), Middleton; Morelos (Lafferty 78)
Unused Subs: Ejaria, Halliday, Foderingham, Grezda, McAuley
Villarreal: Andres Fernandez; Mario Gaspar, Alvaro, Funes Mori, Jaume Costa; Trigueros (Santi Cazorla 62), Caseres, Fornals (Chukweze 73), Morlanes, Ekambi; Bacca (Moreno 62)
Unused Subs: Sansone, Pedraza, Sergio Asenjo, Bonera
Referee: Matej Jug (Slovenia)