Prague (AFP) – Glen Kamara was sent off as Rangers lost 1-0 at Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday, just over six months after he was embroiled in a racism row in a game against Sparta’s great rivals, Slavia.
Finnish international Kamara received a second yellow card with 15 minutes to go after being booed throughout the game by groups of children who were allowed to attend.
UEFA closed the Sparta ground for the match over racism charges, but the Prague club was allowed to invite 10,000 youngsters, all aged between six and 14, owing to an exception for organised groups.
They booed Kamara every time he touched the ball and cheered as he was sent off.
“I thought both (bookings) were harsh,” said Rangers manager Steven Gerrard.
“I thought the first one was just a foul, but when you’re on a yellow card you’ve got to be careful where your arms are.”
During a Europa League last-16 game between Rangers and Slavia Prague in March, Kamara was the target of an alleged racist slur from Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela.
Slavia claimed Kamara had then punched Kudela.
UEFA handed Kudela a 10-match ban from international competitions, ruling him out of Euro 2020, while Kamara received a three-game ban.
Kamara’s lawyer Aamer Anwar was upset with the crowd after the Sparta game, saying that “this evening should be an embarrassment for the Czech side”.
“A huge proportion of those children booed Glen’s every touch of the ball,” he said in a statement.
“Tonight shows yet again that Prague has a serious problem with racism and as usual UEFA is nowhere to be seen.”
Thursday’s result leaves Rangers with no points from two games at the bottom of Group A led by Lyon with six points. Sparta are second with four.
Slovak defender David Hancko scored for Sparta on 29 minutes with a glancing header from a corner.
The ball hit the far post and Allan McGregor’s dive came just too late to stop it on the goal line.
– ‘Tough opposition’ –
“The result stings a bit because I don’t think there was too much between both teams,” Gerrard said about his 50th European game with Rangers.
Rangers dominated possession in the first half but had problems breaking down the solid Sparta defence.
“We certainly need to improve our play around the area in terms of our creation and our variety around the box, I don’t think we tested the keeper enough tonight,” said Gerrard.
“But the game was ultimately decided by a set-play goal, which we’re obviously very disappointed about.”
Fashion Sakala offered their only shot on goal in the first half, but Sparta goalkeeper Florin Nita saved well.
At the other end, Bulgarian winger Martin Minchev forced a superb save from McGregor 10 minutes into the game before seeing another shot stopped by the Rangers goalkeeper 15 minutes later.
Sparta showed more attacking spirit after the restart and produced two decent chances right after half-time.
Less than a minute into the second half, forward Adam Hlozek sprinted into the box and found winger Jakub Pesek who hit the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Minchev missed the goal from close range in another clear-cut chance and McGregor denied Lukas Haraslin in a one-on-one.
David Moberg Karlsson then missed for Rangers in stoppage time.
“I must admit they created the better chances,” said Gerrard.
“The pleasing thing for me is it was a tough opposition, a tough game, we had to adapt and we stayed in the game until the final moment.”
Rangers next face Brondby at home in the group stage while Sparta host Lyon.
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