The Nigerian duo could not help the Scottish champions avoid an embarrassing home loss on matchday one of the competition’s group stage
Joe Aribo was far from his best, but Leon Balogun rarely put a foot wrong, as Rangers fell to a 2-0 defeat to Olympique Lyon at the Ibrox Stadium in the two sides’ first Group A match of the Europa League.
Rangers were in good form ahead of the encounter, having won five of their last six games in all competitions (D1) and six of their last seven starts at Ibrox (L1).
But the Gers lost to Malmo at the Ibrox in the Champions League qualifying round and knew they had to improve markedly to mix it with the visiting French side.
With the Gers missing a few key players due to injury, Nigerian defender Balogun started at the heart of the defence alongside Connor Goldson.
Manager Steven Gerrard pushed Super Eagles playmaker Aribo further forward to serve as the creative engine of the team, and it worked so well early on.
Rangers were the better team for a significant part of the opening half, creating more chances in front of the goal, but they couldn’t seem to stick the ball in the back of the net.
A terrific strike from Toko Ekambi after 23 minutes – Lyon’s first attempt on target – swung the tie in the visitors’ favour, though, as the home side were punished for their wastefulness.
Rangers pushed forward in search of an equaliser, and Aribo came close with the Super Eagles midfielder drilling a low shot towards the bottom left corner of the net on the half-hour mark. However, goalkeeper Lopes got down well and made a good save.
Aribo and teammates had barely settled down for the second half when Lyon extended their advantage after a desperate Goldson clearance off the line struck James Tavernier sending the ball back into the net for an own goal.
A 74th-minute booking summed up Aribo’s sorry evening, with the Nigerian penalised for catching Lyon’s Guimaraes late with a diving tackle after losing control of the ball. And two minutes later, the former Charlton Athletic man was out of the game as Gerrard replaced him with Fashion Sakala.
But there was still nothing for the home side to cheer after Aribo’s exit as Lyon celebrated a convincing win at the final whistle.
Peter Bosz’s side now sits pretty atop Group A, with Rangers sat at the foot of the table, following Brondby’s draw against Sparta Prague in the other group match.