PLAYING IN their first European fixture in six years, Rangers had high hopes of progressing to the next qualifying round of the Europa League after a first leg, 1-0 win at Ibrox, against Luxembourg part timers Progres Niederkorn.
However, in the second leg last Tuesday, they slipped to a humiliating 2-O defeat, which dumped them out of Europe at the first qualifying stage.
The Ibrox side were hoping to show they had made steps forward after last season’s troubled domestic campaign.
But instead they found themselves suffering another nightmare and a result which will go down as one of their worst ever abroad.
Not only had part-timers Niederkorn never won a match in European competition before, they had only managed one goal in 13 previous encounters
Sebastian Thill sealed progress, scoring only the third European goal in the minnows’ history to secure their first ever win in Europe.
Rangers led 1-0 from the first leg in Glasgow, but fell behind after 66 minutes at the 8,000-capacity Stade Josy Barthel when the forward Emmanuel Françoise converted the captain Sebastien Thill’s cross.
Niko Kranjcar, Josh Windass and Kenny Miller hit the woodwork for Rangers.
But the Ibrox men had failed to dominate the game the way they had in the first leg, ensuring their first foray into Europe for six years was short-lived.
Boss Pedro Caixinha brought Daniel Candeias, Alfredo Morelos and Jordan Rossiter into his starting line-up as he looked for more of a cutting edge in the second leg.
The visitors had the bulk of the early possession but again lacked the final pass that could punish Progres.
Miller had a shot blocked following a Kranjcar corner but it was all too untidy in the last third.
That seemed to give the hosts the confidence they had lacked in the first half at Ibrox, with Olivier Thill curling a long-range free-kick narrowly wide with goalkeeper Wes Foderingham struggling to get across.
The second-half started with Progres going even closer, this time Francoise bursting clear on the right and drilling a low effort towards the corner that Foderingham saved brilliantly.
Home keeper Sebastian Flauss had gone off injured in the first half but Rangers failed to test stand-in Charly Schinker until after the hour, when Ryan Jack’s close-range header was directed straight at him.
Moments later Caixinha’s side almost grabbed a crucial away goal as Wallace sent in a cross that Kranjcar headed off the bar.
Then came the opener for Progres as Olivier Thill crossed for Francoise to finish at the near post.
The second arrived soon after as Sebastian Thill curled a free-kick into the box that evaded everyone and crept in at the back post.
Rangers rallied in the closing minutes with Windass’ diving header coming back off the bar before Miller, in stoppage time, lobbed an effort off the face of the bar.
There was no way through though, and the visitors slumped to a shocking result.
The result marks a terrible return to European football for Rangers after six years away and a hugely disappointing start to the manager Pedro Caixinha’s first full season in charge of the club.