Allan McGregor: Rangers' Europa League campaign underpinned by goalkeeper

Allan McGregor
Allan McGregor twice thwarted Villarreal's Karl Toko Ekambi in Thursday's goalless draw

Would Rangers still be in the Europa League were it not for the performances of goalkeeper Allan McGregor?

After a draw with Villarreal at Ibrox that once again showcased McGregor's importance, with two stunning one-on-one saves to deny Karl Toko Ekambi, Steven Gerrard's side travel to Austria to face Rapid Vienna on 13 December knowing that a win will put them into the last 32.

The Scotland international has made a catalogue of superb saves in this European campaign, so much so that BBC Scotland pundit Steven Thompson says the summer arrival from Hull City is "Gerrard's best signing".

"You can't overstate just how important McGregor has been," Thompson said. "Not only on Thursday, but over the course of the season.

"I think what he's bringing now is a level of performance virtually every week. He's bringing his experience to the side and he absolutely loves playing for Rangers."

But just how vital has McGregor been? We look back through the campaign to examine the evidence and hear from the man himself and his manager.

Point-blank blocks & penalties - the saves

Shkupi 0-0 Rangers

First qualifying round, 17 July

McGregor was on hand in Gerrard's first European away game when Muarem Muarem burst through one-on-one with two minutes left. Rangers held a 2-0 lead from the first leg at Ibrox but had it not been for a strong left arm from the keeper, they would have been forced to defend a slender lead in the dying moments.

Rangers 1-1 NK Osijek

Second qualifying round, 2 August

Allan McGregor against Osijek

Despite winning the first leg 1-0 in Croatia, Rangers made things difficult for themselves with a lacklustre draw at Ibrox. And were it not for a superb diving save from McGregor in the 37th minute to deny Ezekiel Henty, things could have been a lot different. Rangers were far from their best that night but were able to rely on the expertise of the man between the posts.

Maribor 0-0 Rangers

Third qualifying round, 16 August

In the second leg in Slovenia, Rangers were only able to progress with a one-goal cushion thanks to the point-blank save McGregor pulled off against Marcos Tavares in the 54th minute to keep the score 0-0. And if that weren't enough, the keeper also saved a penalty by the same player in the final moments of the game.

Allan McGregor against Maribor

Rangers 1-0 Ufa

Play-off round, 23 August

A 1-0 win at Ibrox was ultimately enough to get Rangers past Ufa and into the Europa League group stages. Yet throughout the first leg at Ibrox, McGregor was once again called in to action. One moment that perhaps encapsulates his influence came when Dmitri Zhivoglyadov's shot from five yards out ricocheted off the Scotland international's thigh.

Villarreal 2-2 Rangers

Group stage matchday one, 20 September

One of the most impressive results for Gerrard to date has been the draw Rangers picked up in Spain and once again McGregor was vital to the hard-won point. Were it not for the outstretched right arm of the goalkeeper in the 61st minute, Ramiro Funes Mori's superbly placed shot would have nestled in the net.

Allan McGregor against Villarreal

'It's just luck' - what McGregor said

"It's just luck, you just make yourself as big as you can and stick your hand up and luckily for me it hit my hand. I take things day by day, match by match. I do what I need to do off the park, go to the gym before training, and I feel really good so I'll just keep doing it."

'I'm running out of compliments' - what Gerrard said

"Allan again was world class. His form's been incredible since day one. He comes big for us on two occasions with two world-class saves. I'm running out of things to say about him, just one word, really - wow! He's been top-class since day one, every single day in training and all the games."

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