Kaunas. Gothenburg. Famagusta.
Mention those names to Rangers fans and you’ll see them shudder. Last night, we managed to somehow eclipse all of that.
Let’s get the game covered before we discuss the fallout.
The starting side was close to the one predicted in our preview yesterday, with only Candeias for Dalcio being incorrect. The fans were pretty happy to get a chance to see Morelos start the game, and with Rossiter and Jack sitting behind Kranjcar, we were confident we’d have enough to win the game.
On Thursday, we started the game quickly and with intent, and seemed to lose a lot of energy. Last night, we started like we finished on Thursday. It was slow, and whilst some chances were created, there wasn’t much that was clear cut. Morelos was struggling to have an impact on the game. Kranjcar was nowhere near as incisive. Candeias and Miller couldn’t get in behind often. We had a number of crosses from the full-backs, and I only remember one leading to a chance. Progres had set their stall out to be hard to break down, and we couldn’t find an answer.
The tactics were pretty clear – get the ball out wide quickly and make chances from crosses. Wallace and Tavernier were given freedom to get forward and covered by the midfielders. Unfortunately, the crossing was poor. A lot of our play was slowed down by having Jack and Rossiter in the middle, both of whom like to play the safer pass. We’d had some half chances from set pieces, and a shot from Kranjcar which went well over the bar, and in truth that was it in the first half. Progres had shown a bit of danger from set pieces and long shots as well, but 0-0 was exactly what that half deserved.
Dalcio replaced Morelos at half-time, which meant that Miller moved into the middle. The first real chance of the game came from Progres, however. A long ball down their right sent a player through, and only a good save by Foderingham prevented the goal.
Our best chances came in the 61st and 63rd minute. From a corner, Jack should have scored with a header. And latterly, Kranjcar missed a sitter of Van Vossen proportions from a Wallace cross with the goal gaping, his header hitting the bar.
At that point, I tweeted “2 absolute sitters. They’ll be starting to think it’s their night”. We were 1-0 down by the time it uploaded. A clearance from a corner fell to Progres, and they were unchallenged as they drove to the edge of the box, whipped in a cross, and a near post finish put us in trouble. Until that point, the game had a real feel of a pre-season match, but suddenly they knew we were there for the taking.
Kranjcar was close with a free kick not long after, but we never really looked like scoring before it was 2-0. A daft concession of a free-kick out on our left by Windass saw the ball whipped in and beat everyone. We were heading out unless we scored.
We flung the ball forward, but most of it was aimless. The only real chances fell to Windass and Miller, and both of them hit the bar. The unthinkable was happening – Rangers had lost to Progres Niederkorn.
The fallout from the match is almost more important than the result itself. We were shockingly bad, and as fans, we will have to take the mauling that will come from this for a good while. That’s just how football goes sometimes. However, that doesn’t mean that any decisions made by Rangers will make any of that feel better.
Many fans want Pedro sacked now. I don’t believe we’re quite there yet. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I do think we’ll look very different in August once the season starts in terms of the team we’ll have out. If results and performances don’t pick up then, I’ll agree he has to go. I just don’t think last night was reflective of how things will be.
The players should be pretty ashamed of themselves. We missed sitters and should have scored more. Our play was pretty poor in both games. Football fans tend to point to the manager in such cases. I’m of the opinion the blame should be shared.
We can blame many things – poor management, lack of effort, overconfidence, how early it is in pre-season, bad luck – but I don’t think it was any one aspect. We’ve had a mix of all of it which has led to these two results.
What we’ve also had of late, though, is signs of being on the right track. Better player recruitment, with a mix of ability, experience, and potential. Sorting out the retail deal. Bringing in the Director of Football. Various other improvements off the field, including the route we’re now taking with the development squad. All of that is positive.
My expectations for this season were pretty low. I didn’t think we’d make the group stages, and I think we’ll finish second in the league, around 20 points behind Celtic. There is zero excuse for last night, and it’s a disgraceful result, but I don’t think decisions should be based on that alone. The next few months aren’t as crucial as they could have been because of the good things we’ve done this summer as mentioned above. With a poor squad, made even poorer through lack of motivation and injuries, Caixinha only lost games to Celtic and Aberdeen in his short time last season. I’m not saying he done brilliantly, I just think he showed enough to suggest he will win more often than not and can lead us to a solid league campaign and build upon better foundations.
He may never recover from this. He may be the wrong man for the role. I’m just waiting for more definitive evidence on that before I can make my mind up either way. He was asked by the club to come in early and identify players, assess the squad and get us ready earlier than ever. I’m not sure he’s ever faced that sort of challenge at a club like Rangers before. So far, there’s been more negatives than positives. It’s not going to take many more of the former before the pressure becomes too much.
Like Thursday, no player ratings for this one. I felt this was too early to make judgments, and I stand by that.
Rossiter (Herrera, 77′)
Candeias (Windass, 58′)
Morelos (Dalcio, 45′)
SUBS NOT USED
If you want to discuss the game or the points made on the fallout from it, tweet us @rangersnewsuk and we’ll be happy to share/respond.