Rangers were unable to secure passage to the Europa League knockout stages after dropping more points against Aris Limassol in Group C.

Sparta Prague's win at home against Real Betis in the early kick-off meant that a win would be enough for Philippe Clement's men to ensure progression but their fate will now be decided against Betis in two weeks time. If Sparta can take all three points away at Aris, Clement's men must do the same in Seville.

Shavy Babicka had earned his side a one-goal lead in a first half that largely passed the home side by. Todd Cantwell's cheap surrender of possession ended his side's attack and started one for the visitors, as Babicka latched onto a long pass, rounded Jack Butland and scored. Cantwell would be dramatically substituted by Clement with less than 40 minutes on the clock, replaced by eventual goalscorer Ross McCausland.

The winger, fresh from agreeing a new deal this week, levelled the game soon after the restart with a low-driven shot earned off the back of an Aris throw-in. He fashioned two more excellent chances from the right before the final whistle but on a below-par evening all around no winner would arrive for the Ibrox side. Rangers blew their opportunity of guaranteed Europa League football after Christmas and now may well need a result against Betis.

The Rangers Review breaks down the key talking points from the game below...

No Thursday night fever at Ibrox

One constant in years of inconsistency at Rangers has been Thursdays. The Europa League has so often witnessed the best of this group. The intimidation factor offered up by home crowds in Europe can often be romanticised but too many opponents, large and small, haven’t coped with the fervour of a midweek fixture at Ibrox to ignore that cliche in this circumstance. It was only a few weeks ago that the post prevented Danilo from making it 3-0 within the first 30 minutes against Sparta Prague. Tonight still featured an eye-catching tifo display in the Broomloan while lacking the type of fast start from the hosts we’ve often grown accustomed to watching in past seasons. Perhaps, the crowd didn’t quite feel the need to act the 12th man because of expectation levels. Certainly, they were within their rights to demand more energy and reason to raise excitement levels on the pitch. Aris are better than given credit for and were of course the winners in this tie's reverse fixture. Still, they are a side the packed home crowd were more than expectant of sending away empty-handed. 0-0 was bad enough with that in mind. When the visitors earned a 1-0 goal Ibrox began to communicate its frustration. Clement has often spoken in recent good times about the importance of his team’s reactions when the going gets tough - heading up the tunnel at 8.45 tonight was one such occasion. 

READ MORE: Inside Ross McCausland's rise from Antrim to the Rangers first team

Ross McCausland rises to the occasion 

In the week he agreed a new long-term contract at Ibrox, in the month he made his full club and country debut, there was time for one more first for Ross McCausland this November. The 20-year-old saw a fantastic strike chopped off against Livingston recently and found the bottom corner this time with a right-footed effort into the bottom-left corner. The Northern Irish winger was able to buy an extra yard because, simply put, he’s capable of driving both ways on the right wing and that variation bought the yards used to fire across Vanailson into the net. If there was to be one goalscorer who’d have really lifted the lid off of Ibrox tonight, it was always going to be the young attacker. It was during the very forgettable away tie in Cyrpus that his fellow countryman Steven Davis brought McCausland off from the bench for the first time since May of 2022. Little did he know that just shy of two months later a celebrated professional contract would have been signed. Football is all about taking opportunities, especially as a young player and even more so at a club like Rangers. McCausland has earned his deal precisely because of the confidence and assurance displayed ever since Clement brought him onto the pitch against Hearts last month. After a big few weeks, this was a crowning moment.

Clement makes a big Cantwell call 

Philippe Clement threw his hands up in visible anger at the build-up to Aris’ opener. Todd Cantwell drove infield from his new right-wing position but, appearing uncomfortable at the prospect of releasing on his weaker left-hand side, the 25-year-old surrendered the possession his Cypriot opponents would open the scoring from. Minutes later, Cantwell was replaced during the first half which is, it’s safe to say, normally a sign that a manager just may be unhappy with what he’s witnessing. A smattering of boos accompanied Cantwell as he trudged slowly off the pitch. Perhaps directed at the decision to keep Sam Lammers in position at No.10 instead. At present, we can safely make two observations. Firstly, Clement clearly doesn’t favour Cantwell in that central spot and secondly, the makeshift position occupied instead on the right is seeing a version of the attacker far below his best. When able to move inside and get on the ball facing the goal, Cantwell can use his creative qualities and link with teammates but when glued to the touchline, despite scoring on his left-hand side against Sparta in the last European home game here, his options feel more limited. If Clement has not started Cantwell over Lammers, or latterly Tom Lawrence, up until now at No.10 then will he after tonight?  

A puzzle still to be solved 

When asked about his midfield selection options last week, Clement allowed himself a broad smile. Admitting that while he was in no mood to give up company secrets there was problem-solving required to address the imbalance of his midfield highlighted by injuries. Jose Cifuentes was steady enough at Pittodire but in the first half of tonight’s game especially he struggled to match its pace. Passes were misplaced too consistently and a player more suited to the right side of a midfield three, not a double pivot, appeared suitably out of position. Whether it be the Cantwell dilemma, a severe present lack of depth in midfield or the sheer volume of attackers designed to play in narrow attacking positions that no longer exist in this squad, the Belgian manager has started life at Ibrox above expectation while still working within the parameters of the situation he inherited. This is not a quick fix and nights like tonight demonstrate exactly why. If Rangers fail to reach the knock-out stages in Betis after tonight they will quite literally only have themselves to blame.