Steven Gerrard's shot-shy Rangers draw a blank in Skopje
The monumental task of managing a fallen giant is beginning to dawn on Steven Gerrard as his Rangers side failed to find the net in their Europa League second leg goalless draw against FK Shkupi in Macedonia. Rangers, who led 2-0 from the first leg in Glasgow, will progress to the second qualifying round, but the ex-Liverpool captain admitted there is still a "hell of a lot of work" to do.
The attritional match featured few moments of note as both sides displayed their lack of quality. The hosts almost got off to a flying start when Basil Nchama and Ron Broja combined dangerously on the edge of the Rangers box, but the shot was blocked by James Tavernier. The hosts threatened again midway through the first half forcing a parried save from goalkeeper, Allan McGregor.
Rangers failed to threaten the Macedonian's goal throughout the first half and almost paid the price as Tavernier forced another save from McGregor from a wicked 30-yard free kick. While the Glaswegians dominated possession for the remainder of the second half, they failed to convert their dominance into goals.
In fact, it was Shkupi that almost snatched the win in the 88th minute when Muarem found himself one-on-one with Allan McGregor but failed to convert the opportunity. However, Rangers held on to progress to the next round where they will face either Petrocub or Osijek.
Gerrard reflected on the match after the full-time whistle, confessing he had mixed feelings about the result and there was a lot to work on for the season ahead. He told to Rangers TV:
"I'm a bit mixed right now. We're pleased with one side of the game but there is certainly a hell of a lot of work to do on the other side."
The former England captain went on to praise the shape of his team and their defensive display, claiming it is something to build on:
"Out of possession, we were good, our shape was good, we were aggressive and I'm pleased with the clean sheet. I thought Allan McGregor and my two centre-backs [Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic] were outstanding.....It's a platform to build on."
Gerrard will now turn his attention to the transfer window before his team's Europa League second qualifying round fixture next Thursday. Rangers have been linked with several high profile players - mostly consisting of former teammates reaching the twilight of their careers - since the Liverpudlian took the managerial position at Ibrox in May.
Gerrard's links with former club, Liverpool, and his excellent relationship with Jurgen Klopp, has also led to rumors of several young stars from Anfield moving up north on various loan deals. However, Gerrard's transfer dealings so far this summer have been uninspiring as few notable names have arrived at Ibrox.
With only a few weeks left in the transfer window, it would be no surprise if the Rangers boss picked up the phone and asked his former employers for assistance with bolstering his attacking options for the season ahead. Based on this performance, he should make the call sooner rather than later.