RANGERS suffered a 1-0 defeat by Braga in the Europa League quarter-final first leg.
The Gers got a taste of what life will be like without Alfredo Morelos on Thursday night in Portugal.
The Colombian striker’s season appears to have ended due to injury and the Light Blues missed his physical presence against the Portuguese side.
Kemar Roofe failed to trouble the Celtic defense over the weekend and was dropped in favor of the more direct Fashion Sakala.
While his speed created some early problems for the Braga defense in a way Morelos might not have, the Zambian’s inability to hold the ball up and connect the game meant he had a largely ineffective night before breaking out after the hour was on the hook.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst also heralded the changes in midfield after Sunday 2-1 Old Firm loss with Joe Aribo and Aaron Ramsey moved to the bench.
That meant start for Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield.
The Gers provided the first real opening of the game when John Lundstram headed a half-hearted free-kick down Arfield’s path, which threw the ball down Ryan Kent’s path, but goalkeeper Matheus was alert to block it before the Braga -Defense recovered from Sakala’s succession attempt.
Rangers continued to press, particularly with the tricks and pace of Kent and Sakala, which caused problems for the home side.
Despite the Scottish champions finding their feet early on, it was Braga who came closest to taking the lead after 25 minutes.
Shortly after Ricardo Horta hit the post, brother Andre Horta had the ball in the net (via a deflection from James Tavernier).
However, it would be chopped off once VAR picked up a foul on Ryan Jack under construction.
Far from feeling down, the hosts began to assert some dominance after the disallowed punch and Rangers failed to inspire confidence on the defensive.
Braga finally broke through six minutes before half-time.
Abel Ruiz, who scored against Gers two years ago, found his place perfectly after taking advantage of Leon Balogun’s weak defense on the edge of the box.
Sakala had a chance just before the break but lacked composure and shot over the goal.
Van Bronckhorst had almost no joy on offense for the first 15 minutes after the restart, throwing Aribo and Roofe instead of Jack and Sakala. Balogun also made way for Borna Barisic when Calvin Bassey moved into the middle to cover for the Nigerian, who was believed to have taken a hit.
Roofe had a decent chance to make a quick impression in the 73rd minute when he lost his marker in the box and hit in with Arfield’s cross, but he fired his first volley over the bar.
Braga appeared content to hold the 1-0 lead and coach Carlos Carvalhal threw little caution to the wind in the final 15 minutes.
This gave Rangers more possession, but the closest they came was a blocked attempt by Bassey on a corner.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/18203007/braga-rangers-alfredo-morelos-europa-league/ Abel Ruiz scores the only goal to give Van Bronckhorst’s men a difficult task in the second leg