RANGERS will look to salvage their Europa League campaign in Germany on Thursday and will be boosted after kicking off the new Scottish Premiership season with victory over Aberdeen on Saturday.

They head to the BayArena trailing Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 from March’s last-16 first leg – but will travel with confidence after Ryan Kent’s goal got them off and running with a 1-0 win behind closed doors at Pittodrie.

Having dominated the first half, Steven Gerrard’s men  did not get it all their own way after the break, but held on to return with all three points. 

What else did we learn from the encounter?

LEON BALOGUN MADE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

HeraldScotland:

Gerrard has brought in six central defenders in his two seasons as Rangers manager and yet he is still seeking a definitive partnership – so often a given at Ibrox in teams of the past – at the heart of his side.

Though it would be flippant to herald the centre-half’s arrival as the solution to what has felt like a perennially problematic position since Gerrard’s arrival at the club, he did make a solid start, winning his physical battles, showing good distribution and putting his body in the way when Scott McKenna attempted to bundle the ball over the line from a corner.

Balogun cracked his head off the side of a post following a push by the Aberdeen defender and was unhappy with the challenge afterwards but it was far from clear that it was done with intent to injure rather than an attempt to dig out an equaliser.

Yes, it was a man-of-the-match performance but there was a note of caution: there will be much stiffer tests to come for Balogun. Bruce Anderson provided little in the way of a commanding presence in attack for Aberdeen leaving the Nigerian international untroubled for most of the afternoon.

Even when Anderson was replaced it was by Ryan Edmondson, a player who had arrived on loan from Leeds United 48 hours earlier and who has yet to make a competitive appearance for the newly-promoted Premier League club.

ALFREDO MORELOS WOULD START A FIGHT IN AN EMPTY HOUSE

HeraldScotland:

The Colombian’s misdemeanours are often explained away by the suggestion that he is a target for opposition supporters and so is partly the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy: take a stick to a wasp’s nest and the chances are you’ll get stung. Here, there were no such mitigating factors.

This wasn’t exactly steam-escaping-from-the-ears Morelos but he can’t seem to help himself when it comes to seeking out trouble. In the first half, he slammed into Funso Ojo long after the Dutch midfielder had played a forward pass.

As the second neared its end, he hauled Lewis Ferguson down by an outstretched arm inside the area and did his “Who me?” routine. Mere seconds later, he waded into a scramble for the ball involving Joe Aribo and three Aberdeen defenders which ended with him taking a swipe at Jonny Hayes.

It was a reminder that he is too temperamental a player to keep his head in fiery encounters – four of which are against Celtic and will likely determine the destination of the title. The anticipated £17m they will receive from his transfer to Lille – or elsewhere – could be put to good use on new attacking talent who can broaden the spread of Rangers’ goals.

YOU CAN SEE WHY GERRARD WANTS REINFORCEMENTS

HeraldScotland:

The Rangers manager said before kick-off that he wanted to add more attacking options and a player to help out in his engine room. Though the former may be of more immediate concern with Jermain Defoe out for an undefined period and Morelos likely to be on the move before the summer window closes, the latter is clearly a pressing area of need. Ryan Jack and Glen Kamara are too similar, favouring conservative passes over more incisive lateral ones.

Being able to play from deep midfield into the forward line with pace and accuracy is a commodity that is vital in the modern game and one which Rangers are lacking.

McINNES NEEDS TO FIND A SOLUTION IN ATTACK

HeraldScotland:

There was always the likelihood that Aberdeen might struggle to score on Saturday following the injuries to Sam Cosgrove and Curtis Main. The former nabbed more than a quarter of Aberdeen’s league goals last season and top scored with 23 overall.

McInnes said he got bored watching his side at points during the previous campaign such was the sterile manner in which he asked them to play – by necessity – at times.

With Dave Cormack admitting that there is no money in the pot for further reinforcements despite the injuries to strikers No.1 and No.2, McInnes will have to find an answer to his conundrum from within.

Pushing Ferguson into the more advanced role he played in his first season at the club might help. Ferguson feels wasted in the deeper position he plays now – albeit he is reigning young player of the year – especially when you consider he scored eight goals in that first campaign. Of course, he would need someone holding the ball up for him if he were to make those runs in behind defenders. Edmondson, not Anderson, would fit that mould.

THE EMPTY GROUND HELPED RANGERS

HeraldScotland:

Statistical research from around Europe has demonstrated that when games are played behind closed doors the conditions tend to favour away teams and those with better technical ability. That clearly was a boon to Rangers – especially when you consider that the same statistical figures (taken from a report entitled Echoes: what happens when football is played behind closed doors) conclude that referees are less likely to book players from away teams due to a lack of vocal influence from supporters. In the case of Morelos, a baying Pittodrie might certainly have influenced referee Bobby Madden when it came to disciplining him for his kick at Hayes.