RANGERS decided yesterday that James Tavernier was worth more to them than the £2m West Bromwich Albion were prepared to offer and on this evidence their fiscal calculations were sound. While the riches on offer in the Europa League are nowhere near as bounteous as those up for grabs in the Champions League, the club captain reinforced his value to the Ibrox side with an accomplished personal display and a second half penalty as Steven Gerrard’s side racked up a first-leg lead to take to Slovenia in this third-round qualifying tie. While they aren’t quite free of the curse of Maribor just yet, it was the late third goal on the night from Lassana Coulibaly which really might prove priceless in the final reckoning.

Only two Scottish sides have ever made it all the way through Europa League qualifying to the group stages – Hearts and Aberdeen – but you can sense Rangers are starting to fancy their chances. See the job through against the Slovenians in seven days’ time, and either Ufa and Progres Niederkorn will stand in their way. That one is delicately poised at 2-1 after the first match in Russia.

While Tavernier was staying (he could theoretically still move anywhere other than England until the end of the month) fans turned up at Ibrox to the tidings that Josh Windass had been sold to Wigan Athletic, and Declan John had moved on to Swansea City and neither of which piece of news seemed to dishearten them too much. Steven Gerrard made three changes – some of them forced – from the side which conceded that late equaliser at Aberdeen with Scott Arfield in for the suspended Ryan Jack, Daniel Candeias coming in for Jamie Murphy and Ovie Ejaria replacing Windass. 

Maribor are a modest club who narrowly lost out to OIympija Ljubljana in the Slovenian league last year, but they graced the Champions League group stages under Darko Milanic last year and it hardly needed repeating how much of a thorn they had proved to be for Scottish sides in the past. They might have been dismantled by Dick Advocaat’s side over two legs back in 2001 but since then they had met Premiership sides on four occasions – Hibs, Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen - and won all four of them. Marcos Tavares, the club’s Brazilian-born striker, might be 34 now, but he knows what it felt like to a goal at Celtic Park which eliminated Ronny Deila’s side from the Champions League and quite fancied to doing something similar at Ibrox this time around.

If Tavernier was man of the match, plenty of others weren’t far behind. The English experience of Scott Arfield and Conor Goldson was invaluable, while Ovie Ejarie’s decision-making was much improved on his erratic showing against Osijek last week. 

If the first hint of the threat the Slovenians were to carry came when Marko Suler’s header flew past the post, soon Tavernier was breaking forward with intent to threaten the opposition goal. It wasn’t all going forward though: twice in that first half he was also called to make last-ditch interventions to prevent seemingly certain goals from Aleks Pihler and Gregor Bajde.

For now, Alfredo Morelos is the only trusted out-and-out striker on the Ibrox side’s books and within five minutes he had this place rocking. Arfield fed Ryan Kent, whose finish was beaten out by Jasmin Handanovic. Morelos, lurking nearby, could hardly miss. 

If that was the good side of his game, the carelessness which creeps into the little Colombian’s game was also apparent as this match turned on its head in the 40th minute. Again the Ibrox side’s high pressing saw them pilfer possession, this time through Candeias. It was a two-on-one now and Rangers couldn’t miss. Or so you thought. As Candeias fed Morelos to tap the ball into the net, he had neglected to get himself back onside. 

The wastefulness of the moment was compounded by what happened seconds later. The clever Derisevic levered a pass over the top and Mitja Viler struck it first time with his left foot, Allan McGregor left watching the ball drop unerringly into his top corner. The finish was reminiscent of Marco van Basten in the Euro 88 final, and hardly undeserved, considering the efforts which the Slovenians had been peppering McGregor’s goal with all night. 

Whatever Gerrard said at half time had the desired effect. Lassana Coulibaly forced a high save from Handanovic as Rangers forced a series of corners, and soon Rangers had their lead back, the pace and energy of Morelos too much for the visitors’ leaden-footed back line. He turned Denis Klinar, it was a straightforward penalty decision for the Israeli referee and Tavernier stuck it away high to the keeper’s left like it was the simplest thing in the world. 

The full back had the Slovenians on toast down that right side and it would have been one for the highlight reel if he could have beaten Handanovic with a knuckleball strike from the right side. Ryan Kent almost gave the hosts a two-goal lead if he could have recovered his bearings sufficiently following a low Candeias cross, but the Liverpool loanee’s clipped cross feel perfectly for Coulibaly to divert it over the line. Rangers may have done the most difficult part of the assignment.