STEVEN GERRARD faces a striker crisis for Rangers’ Champions League qualifiers after Jermain Defoe limped off in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Ibrox yesterday.

The club will enter the third round of qualification after achieviing their first title success in a decade and they could be in line for the first of two potential ties next month.

But Gerrard may have to go into these encounters without the services of the experienced Defoe who departed the action against the London outfit with what looked like a muscular injury in the 35th minute, according to a report in the Sunday Mail.

The 38-year-old former England international frontman pulled up and was immediately taken off, with Scott Wright coming on.

UP IN THE AIR…Jermain Defoe has injury problems before Euro ties.

That saw Kemar Roofe move into the middle, but he is suspended for the Euro ties after his horror head-high tackle on Slavia Prague goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar last term.

Alfredo Morelos has yet to return from Colombia after the Copa America, while Fashion Sakala only met his team-mates during the week after completing a 10-day quarantine after joining from Belgian side KV Oostende.

Ryan Kent played against Tranmere, but sustained a knock and was not in the squad to face Mikel Arteta’s team while Joe Aribo, who has also been battling injury, didn’t feature, either.

Gerrard does have another option in Cedric Itten, a scorer yesterday, but he will hope to have all of his strikers fit and firing in the first and second weeks of next month.

PUSH OFF…Steven Davis challenges Arsenal striker Emerick Aubameyang for the ball during the 2-2 draw.

The Govan gaffer watched his side twice threw away the lead to draw with Arsenal who lost 2-1 to Hibs at Easter Road during the week.

Around 2,000 fans returned to the stadium for the first time since March 2020, and they cheered defender Leon Balogun opening the scoring in the 14th minute with a header from a James Tavernier corner.

Nuno Tavares, the Portuguese left-back signed from Benfica and making his Gunners debut, thumped in a close-range leveller on 22 minutes, before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed an earlier chance, headed a cross from Cedric Soares wide.

Following Defoe’s enforced exit, defender Calvin Bassey cleared a shot from Aubameyang off the line.

Former Celtic favourite Kieran Tierney was introduced as one of five interval substitutions and Allan McGregor was forced into action with saves from Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe.

However, Swiss raider Itten headed in a corner from fellow-substitute Glenn Middleton in the 75th minute before the visitors equalised eight minutes later through Eddie Nketiah to share the spoils.



About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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