Malik Tillman’s late goal helped Rangers storm back from a two-goal disadvantage, while Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa survived an early scare to move within one step of the Champions League group stage.
Apollon Limassol 2 – 0 Maccabi Haifa (agg. 2-4)
Josh Cohen and Maccabi Haifa looked headed towards an unlikely disaster early in the game against Apollon Limassol, however eventually stopped the bleeding to advance to the final round of qualifying on aggregate.
The Cypriots were aiming to overturn a four-goal disadvantage, and succeeded in cutting the lead in half before the half-hour.
Hervin Ongenda scored Apollon’s first in spectacular fashion in the 19th minute, receiving the ball in the left flank at 25 yards out. He unleashed a rocket towards the far side of goal, which left Cohen no chance whatsoever to make the save.
After Haifa’s Din David saw his 21st-minute strike called back for an offside infraction, Israel Coll quickly added a second for the hosts in the 27th. A scramble in the Haifa area left the ball rolling freely to the edge of the area, where effortlessly one-timed his shot to the right side, again well out of Cohen’s reach.
Omer Atzili nearly padded Haifa’s advantage just past the half-hour when his free kick forced Apollon keeper Aleksandar Jovanovic into a save, but in the end, the team’s generally tighter performance by the guests’ defense after the opening blitz preserved their two-goal aggregate lead through the final whistle.
Cohen and his teammates have one final step before reaching the group stage, as they will now face Red Star Belgrade, who demolished Armenian champions Pyunik by a 7-0 aggregate, with the first leg taking place on Wednesday.
Regardless of the outcome, they will have six further European games this season, as a loss would place them into the Europa League group stage.
Rangers FC 3 – 0 Union Saint- Gilloise (agg. 3-2)
Malik Tillman and James Sands both started for Rangers in their do-or-die home leg against Belgians Union Saint- Gilloise on Tuesday, with Tillman capping a remarkable come-back to send the team through to the play-off.
Sands played 79 minutes in the team’s central defense and earned a yellow card, while Tillman played the full 90, also picking up a yellow in the first half.
Coming into the game with a daunting two-goal disadvantage, the hosts cut the Belgians’ lead in half just before the break, with James Tavernier converting from the spot after USG’s Siebe Van Der Heyden got a hand on Borna Barisic’s cross into the box.
Antonio-Mirko Colak put the teams on even terms two minutes before the hour, cleaning up after Scott Arfield’s initial shot was blocked by the keeper.
With Rangers smelling blood in the air, they earned their spot in the next round off the head of their recent American acquisition Tillman. Barisic sent a looping cross into the area, where Tillman was waiting at the back post to head home the winner.
Rangers have a tough task in the final step before the group stage, as they must face Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven over two legs starting on Tuesday, with the loser of the tie earning the consolation of a place in the Europa League.
Henry Wingo was not in uniform for Ferencváros as their 3-1 loss at home to Qarabağ saw them exit the competition on a 4-2 aggregate score. They will now face Shamrock Rovers over two legs for a possible place in the Europa League group stage.
Richard Ledezma remained on PSV Eindhoven’s bench for 3-2 overtime win at French team AS Monaco. The result gave them the 4-3 aggregate win, and a pair of games against Rangers for a group-stage berth.