Steven Gerrard’s side saw the best chances in the first half. Ryan Kent was involved in several of the good offensive moves, including a blocked shot just before the break.
But the Rangers were punched early in the second period, playing in front of a noisy home crowd. Soren Reiks scored the first goal in the 47th minute, before Veljko Birmancevic (49) – who had set it up – saw a home shot through the bottom of the post to ultimately seal the hosts’ victory.
However, there was late drama when, with the last kick of the game, Davis (90 + 5) shot from the edge of the box to cut the deficit in half and give the Rangers a fighting chance.
That still leaves the Scottish Premiership champions with a huge task on Tuesday, when they host Malmo at Ibrox and attempt to set up a Champions League play-off with Ludogorets or Olympiakos.
How Malmö won the first leg
The first half was a fairly balanced affair – so much so that both teams saw their first shots of the game a minute apart. The Rangers struck first, but Scott Arfield’s effort was an easy pickup for Johan Dahlin. At the other end, Jo Inge Berget cut to the right before hitting, but forced a good save from Allan McGregor.
The Rangers continued to see the best chances though. Kent accelerated to the left, but his cross into the box escaped Scott Wright, who had slipped. Right after it was another great break, but Wright’s ball was cut off by Lasse Nielsen.
Malmö: Dahlin (6), Moisander (6), Rieks (7), Lewicki (6), Colak (6), Christiansen (7), Ahemdhodzic (6), Birmancevic, (7) Innocent (5), Nielsen (5), The mountain (5).
Submarines used: Nalic (5), Abubakari (n / a), Beijmo (n / a), Concurrent (n / a).
Prowlers: McGregor (6), Tavernier (7), Goldson (7), Helander (6), Barisic (6), Davis (6), Lundstram (6), Arfield (7), Wright (8), Kent (8), Itten (5).
Submarines used: Sakala (6).
Man of the match: Ryan Kent.
It was the Malmö defender who foiled yet another Rangers attack just before the break. James Tavernier had a good flight in his own half before descending to the right flank. He picked Kent at the top of the box, but despite working in a good space, his effort was blocked by Nielsen before being knocked out of danger.
- The Rangers made seven changes from the weekend’s league win. Allan McGregor, Fillip Helander, Borna Barisic, John Lundstram, Scott Arfield, Scott Wright and Cedric Itten all entered the XI, replacing Jon McLaughlin, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Glen Kamara, Ianis Hagi, Joe Aribo and Fashion Sakala.
- Glen Kamara, Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe have all been suspended.
But Rangers made the worst start to the second half as Malmö scored two quick goals. Birmancevic grabbed a good space in the box and found an unmarked Rieks towards the back post. It was then a curling final in front of McGregor to see the hosts ahead.
With the Rangers’ defense in disarray, Malmö added his second goal two minutes later in the same fashion. Coming to set up the opener, Birmancevic was sort of left unmarked on the right. He recovered a pass before making his way home to the far corner via the bottom of the post, with Connor Goldson unable to prevent him from entering.
Malmö only gained confidence after the goals, and Rangers couldn’t put together much until the final stages. Wright cut to the left side, picking summer signature Fashion Sakala in the middle, but the forward just lifted his effort off. In added time, Wright appealed from a denied penalty after Nielsen made contact inside the box.
But the best moment of the Rangers game was yet to come. It was no surprise to see Kent involved, twisting and turning to the right before picking Davis at the top of the zone. It was then a wonderful striker who flew to the back of the net, offering the visitors a vital lifeline before the return leg.
Man of the Match – Ryan Kent
It was another good performance from Kent, who was the main driver of the Rangers’ attacking game. It was his quick feet that helped create the goal, and he will be essential in the second leg.
Credit must also go to Wright, who also did well when Gerrard trusted him in such a big game.
Rangers travel to Dundee United for the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, live on Sky Sports; kick off at 12:30 p.m. They will then welcome Malmo to Ibrox on Tuesday evening; kick off at 8 p.m.