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Hagi makes sure of comfortable win to secure top spot for Rangers

Being seeded means the Scottish side can avoid a string of European heavyweight sides.

Rangers players celebrate after Ianis Hagi's goal.
Rangers players celebrate after Ianis Hagi's goal.
Image: Czarek Sokolowski

RANGERS BANKED a £1.4million windfall as Steven Gerrard’s team made sure they will be seeded for Monday’s Europa League last-32 draw with victory in Poland.

A 2-0 triumph over Lech Poznan at Stadion Miejski earned the Light Blues the standard £515,000 win bonus – plus an extra £900,000 prize for pipping Benfica to top Group D.

But it is the fact Gers are now set to avoid a string of European heavyweights – including Manchester United, Arsenal, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen, and Roma – in the next round which will be priceless to Gerrard.

Striker Cedric Itten fired the Light Blues ahead as he made the most of a rare run out through the middle before Ianis Hagi confirmed the unbeaten Scottish Premiership leader’s fourth victory from six games as he tapped home from point-blank range after the break.

Having secured qualification with last week’s win over Standard Liege, Gerrard decided it was too risky to name a full-strength side ahead of Sunday’s vital league trip to Dundee United.

He made seven changes to the team which thrashed Ross County on Sunday as Itten, Bongani Zungu and 19-year-old Nathan Patterson came in to make their first European starts.

But there was still plenty of experience with the ever-present Connor Goldson lining up along with Borna Barisic and Scott Arfield.

Poznan had lost four of their previous five group games but the hosts settled quicker than the unfamiliar Gers line-up.

Jon McLaughlin, back in goal as he replaced Allan McGregor, had to gather Pedro Tiba’s strike at the second attempt.

Patterson and Zungu’s nerves were also apparent, with the latter harshly booked after slipping as he challenged Karlo Muhar. The South African midfielder was then rescued by Barisic after gifting the ball away just outside his own box.

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From the corner, Poznan worked a crossing opportunity but Lubomir Satka missed a glorious chance as he put his free header over McLaughin’s bar.

Gers did find their feet by the half-hour mark and thought they had the opener as Patterson’s cross found Itten – but Kaminski’s desperate block kept the Swiss hitman out.

But Poznan’s saviour turned sinner just seconds later as he fired the ball straight to the man he had just foiled. Itten still had work to do but brilliantly skipped beyond Djordje Crnomarkovic before drilling an unstoppable drive past keeper Filip Bednarek at his near post to hand Rangers a 31st-minute lead.

Ianis Hagi should have made it two just before the break as he galloped onto Itten’s flick but the Romanian did not have the pace to shrug off Satka, who recovered well to get a block in.

McLaughlin dealt well with Tymoteusz Puchacz’s free-kick.

Patterson – who had put in a display to be proud off after shaking off his early butterflies – was replaced by skipper James Tavernier on 65 minutes.

And Gers had more to celebrate with 18 minutes left as they sealed the win.

Goldson thought he had got the all important second goal as his firm header from Barisic’s set-piece clipped the bar before bouncing down on to the line but it took the replays to show that it had not crossed over until Hagi darted to in to make sure with his header.

Hagi was just getting into full flow as he tried for a second but was replaced by Ryan Kent soon after forcing Bednarek to throw himself full-length to parry away a stinging shot.

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