Not many outside Ibrox gave Rangers much of a chance in the home leg of their Champions League qualifying tie against Belgians Royale Union Saint-Gilloise.
The Full Scottish by Brian P. Dunleavy
Yes, ’Gers are a far bigger club than Union, with far more financial resources at their disposal. And, yes, the Govan side are a global brand. Union? Barely known in Belgium, and only in their second season in that country’s top flight.
However, the Belgian side carried a 2-0 edge in the tie heading into the second leg on Tuesday. Worse, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men hardly looked up to the challenge in Belgium. In short, it had all the makings of ’Gers’ version of Celtic’s failure against Ferencveros two seasons ago.
That all changed once the ball was kicked in Govan, though. With the Ibrox crowd roaring their support, Rangers dominated the match from start to finish. The end result: a 3-0 thrashing that could have been worse for the Belgians.
Now: a tie against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League playoffs. Win and they’re in, of course, and they join rivals Celtic in the group stages. Good for Rangers. Great for Scottish football.
“Last year in Europe we didn’t have to make up a two-goal margin,” van Bronckhorst told RangersTV this week. “Our learning point from this tie is to make sure against PSV we have two games where we have to be at our best and put in the performances we need.”
Indeed, turning in another dud away could prove costly against a side with PSV Eindhoven’s quality. But while Rangers appeared to “bottle” a number of matches last season—at least domestically—the group this term seems to have put any feelings of shaky confidence behind them.
If true, that would be great news for ’Gers, but not-so-great for the rest of the Scottish Premiership.
“I am really happy with the strength in depth we have,” van Bronckhorst told RangersTV. “We can adjust within games but also prepare ourselves for the games and see which XI will suit the gameplan.”
Take note, Ange Postecoglou.
On another note, Motherwell thought outside the box—but inside the club—in naming Steven Hammell as manager, particularly when a return of Stephen Robinson, now at St. Mirren, was reportedly in the cards. Hammell, though, knows the club well, perhaps better than anyone. He made more than 500 appearances for the Steelmen across all competitions as a player and was most recently an academy coach. That academy has produced, among others, Celtic’s David Turnbull. It will be interesting to see what he can do with the first team.