|Rangers players celebrate as Edu tucks home the winner.|
So it was Thursday and the return to the Europa League for Walter Smith's men.
Rangers met Sporting Lisbon in the 2008 Uefa Cup,now rebranded Europa league and they went on to reach the final of the competition where they lost 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg.
Smith who has often been criticised for his defensive approach in Europe reverted to their European formation of three central defenders, with captain David Weir at its heart after overcoming illness and Richard Foster started at right-back.
The Gers had to avoid defeat and score 2 goals in order to go through without injury time being necessary and they took to the Portuguese club from the start but were unable to create many clear cut chances in the first 10 minutes as they often struggled to keep hold of possession and often found themselves under heavy pressure.
It however was Rangers who got the first goal on 20 minutes Steven Davis delivered a ball to the back post that found the head of El Hadj Diouf who nodded past Sporting keeper Rui Patricio.
As Rangers took confidence from the goal they looked to push on and score another which would effectively kill the tie as Sporting never looked like scoring but it was indeed the hosts who found the net on 42minutes when David Weir failed to remove the danger from a cross and the ball was picked up by Helder Postiga who nudged it back to ex Rangers midfield Pedro Mendes who curled the ball into the corner past Allan McGregor.
So the teams went in level at the break and Diouf had words with Evaldo who then had to be separated by coaches.
Sporting came out in the second half fired up and looking to score a goal which would force Rangers out to try and save the tie and a freekick nearly crept in the back post but McGregor got up to tip it away from goal and out for a corner and they should have scored as Joao Pereira beat the offside trap but headed over from 8 yards.
As both teams looked for a goal the game begun to open up and when a Davis header was saved by Rui Patricio, Sporting broke clear and McGregor had to block a low Pereira drive clear with his legs.
Rangers boss Smith made a surprise change after 71 minutes, withdrawing captain Weir, with Vladimir Weiss and Kyle Lafferty coming on for the veteran defender and the youngster John Fleck.
Rangers moved towards a more adventurous approach and were caught when their claim for a foul on Sasa Papac was turned down Pereira's cross found Djalo at the back post and he headed powerfully past McGregor from 10 yards.
This goal meant Sporting had gone 2-1 up and Rangers still only needed a goal to progress and as Vladimir Weiss crossed low for Lafferty who was unable to connect.Davis had a pop at goal from his left foot which fizzed just above the bar.
As 4 minutes of additional time were indicated Rangers surged forward and Foster knocked the ball through for David Healy and the substitute's ball across the face of goal was in a perfect position for one of 4 different Rangers players to tap in and it met the foot of American, Maurice Edu met the ball and gave Rangers the vital goal to go through.
It sparked jubilant scenes on the touchlines from the Rangers bench and in particular soon to be manager Ally McCoist.
Rangers managed to hold on for the draw which puts them through and they face the dutch PSV Eidnhoven in the next round on the 10th and 17th March.