RANGERS moved to within touching distance of a place in Europe after Christmas with a narrow but deserved win over Sparta Prague at Ibrox tonight that stretched Philippe Clement’s unbeaten start as manager to six matches.

The Glasgow club had ridden their luck at the back and been somewhat fortunate to avoid a defeat to Sparta in the second Rangers game that Clement had taken charge of over in the Czech Republic last month.

However, they were comfortably the better of the two sides in the Group C encounter in Govan this evening despite the final scoreline and picked up another three points to leapfrog their opponents into second place in the section thanks to first half goals from Danilo and Todd Cantwell strike.

So can James Tavernier and his team mates build on this result and progress to the knockout rounds of the Europa League? There remains room for improvement. But, on this evidence, there is a very good chance. Here are five talking points from another win for Clement’s charges.


The 1-0 reverse to Aris Limassol in Cyprus at the start of last month when midfielder Steven Davis was in the dugout is a distant memory for Rangers now.

If they overcome the team that dealt them that humiliating defeat when they face them again in a fortnight they will be assured of at least third place in the table and a spot in the Conference League knockout rounds.  

Clement is hopeful of getting a few injured players back in the weeks ahead and that will only help his on-form team’s cause.

Ross McCausland, who came on in the second half, is certainly a potent option for him now. The Auchenhowie graduate was lively during his time on the pitch and was unlucky not to score  on a couple of occasions.  


With Leon Balogun having been left out of the European squad by his predecessor Michael Beale earlier this season, Clement had to do without the man who had performed so well in the wins over Dundee and Hearts last week.

He brought Ben Davies, who was ruled out of the first of those games by a minor issue, back in to the centre of his defence alongside Connor Goldson in the only change from Hampden at the weekend.

Sparta manager Brian Priske kept faith in the 3-4-2-1 formation and deployed Victor Olatunji up front with Velijko Bermancevic and Jan Kuchta just off him. Could Davies and Goldson dovetail and prevent the visitors from netting?

Goalkeeper Jack Butland can not have had many quieter evenings in his career. His outfield team mates did a fantastic job nullifying the threat that Sparta posed. Davies played a big part in that. He has had his critics at times since moving to this country. But he is an intelligent footballer who is comfortable competing against decent continental opposition.

That said, the whole defence could have done better to prevent Vaclav Sejk giving Sparta a late lifeline. Rangers also had Butland to thank for keeping them in front in the closing stages. They must develop more of a ruthless streak and make their superiority count.


When Danilo missed an absolute sitter against Servette in a Champions League qualifier in Switzerland back in August, fans of rival clubs gleefully proclaimed, after just three starts, that Rangers had signed the new Filip Sebo.

Fast forward a few months and nobody is accusing the Ibrox club of wasting money on the Brazilian striker any more. The £6m man may have taken time to settle in Scotland and establish himself as a regular first team starter. But he has silenced his detractors in emphatic fashion in recent weeks since recovering from a serious facial injury.

Fresh from winning a penalty and setting up another goal in the Viaplay Cup semi-final victory at Hampden on Sunday, the 24-year-old opened the scoring in the 12th minute. He did brilliantly to intercept an attempted pass back from James Gomez and then keep his composure and slot beyond Peter Jensen.

The strike - which prompted the home supporters to burst into the song which they sing in his honour  - took his tally for the 2023/24 campaign to six. His new manager is confident there is even more to come from the marksman in the months ahead. How much of a threat will he pose in the final third when he is able to play without his protective headgear?

He should have made it 3-0 after some nice play by Borna Barisic and Abdallah Sima down the left flank. He rushed his shot and struck the left post with goalkeeper cruelly exposed. He also had a goal ruled out by VAR. But you sense the diminutive front man is only, much like his team under Clement, only going to go from strength to strength in future.


Clement’s decision to remove Cantwell from the pitch at half-time at Hampden on Sunday led to the Glasgow rumour mill going into overdrive. It was widely suggested that the Belgian was not a fan of the Englishman and may favour others to him.

But the Ibrox manager explained that there were a number of reasons for his substitution. The yellow card which his player picked up during the opening 45 minutes clearly concerned him a little. He is also cognisant of the fact the blonde-haired midfielder is not 100 per cent fit either after a lengthy injury lay-off.  

The former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco head coach silenced the gossips when he named the ex-Norwich City man in his starting line-up this evening. He will continue to do so if the January signing keeps on exerting such an influence on proceedings.

The 25-year-old went close early on, did superbly to net his side’s second, his first of the season, and was unfortunate not to add another before half-time. The supporters’ favourite looks to have put his ankle problems firmly behind him. He is, slowly but surely, getting back to his best.   


The Rangers fans have taken a bit of a kicking in the past week on the back of their ultras’ flare display at Dens Park. But supporters were on their best behaviour tonight and cheered their heroes from kick-off to the final whistle. The pre-match tifo display in the Broomloan Stand was certainly impressive. It showed that you don’t need pyrotechnics to create an atmosphere.