Our first foray back in European football for six years ended with a simple, yet disappointing, win last night. The goal from Kenny Miller was enough to win us the first leg, but in truth the only things we’ll take from it are more game time for players and a clean sheet.

Ibrox was rocking at the start of the game. Not even the warning from Dave King to keep the singing “civilised” was going to prevent the noise from being deafening at kick off.

The starting line-up was the one predicted on Wednesday in our match preview, and some of how the game went was also as predicted.

Progres had no intention of leaving gaps anywhere defensively, and from the first minute it was clear they would sit in. We had loads of the ball, but without much room to get forward, the game was slowed down somewhat. Our desire to get in behind led to a few offside decisions which killed our momentum once too often.

The first real chance fell to Kranjcar, who had been spraying passes around very well to try and open the game up. A Tavernier cross found Kranjcar running in at the back post, but his angle of run seemed to be off, and the header from six yards went well wide. We struggled to get many clear shots at goal, with efforts from distance or scrappy half-chances from set pieces being our lot in the main.

There was some nice football being played, though. Some of the link up was good, and that led to the goal. Decent play saw us get it out wide on the right, and a free-kick was given for handball when the advantage didn’t look like coming to anything. There’s an old saying in football – when the ball goes dead, good players come alive. As such, it’s no surprise that Kranjcar and Miller were the ones aware enough to link up for a quick free-kick. Miller was put through, and dispatched it past the keeper with ease. 37 minutes into the game, we were finally 1-0 up.

After that, we started to put a bit more pressure on to the visitors. Dalcio was unlucky with both a near-post chance and a diving header from a corner. Kranjcar will be annoyed at the shot he had from distance which was saved, after some good link up between Miller and Dalcio.

At half time, you felt we should have scored at least one more, and would kick on in the second half. A couple of minutes into that half, Miller almost scored a second after some good play on the left.

After that, though, we seemed to dip a bit in energy levels. Chances dried up, and on 58 minutes Caixinha attempted to be more attacking by replacing Holt with Candeias. That saw Miller drop deeper into midfield, and the hope was that him and Kranjcar would cause problems in front of their defence.

Instead, it let Progres back into the game somewhat. They got their best chances in that period, with one coming from a quick free-kick which led to a shot on target which Foderingham spilled somewhat. Jack was struggling to hold the midfield on his own, so on the 68th minute, Kranjcar was replaced by Rossiter. Both players got a great reception.

Without Kranjcar, the attacking guile was lessened even further. Candeias forced a save from the keeper after cutting inside onto his left, but that was really it. The introduction of Morelos for Waghorn didn’t make a huge difference.

The last chance of the match came from a corner. Cardoso nodded it back from deep and Bates saw his glancing header cleared off the line.

As said earlier, overall it was relatively comfortable, but just a little bit disappointing. The expectation levels were raised by the last few weeks, though, so that has to be taken into consideration. The crowd reflected the performance, and a lot of the second half felt flat. Shock results will occur often at this stage of the season in these competitions. To come away without conceding a goal at home is often the main aim.

I don’t think we can take anything from individual performances at this stage, good or bad. There’s a lot to be proved still. What was evident though was a change in approach; we pressed the ball higher up the pitch until the energy levels dipped. We also looked to turn the defence much quicker than usual, and use width and early crosses to put pressure on them. At the back, we looked pretty solid aside from that 10 minute spell where we were a little short in midfield.

I think we’ll win the second leg by a couple of goals. If Progres come out to win the game, we’re well set up to hit them on the break. If nothing else, the second leg is now a competitive game rather than something we would have taken lightly. That can only help in our preparations.

Kranjcar was clearly man of the match.


Foderingham, Tavernier, Bates, Cardoso, Wallace, Holt (Candeias, 58), Jack, Miller, Kranjcar (Rossiter, 68), Dalcio, Waghorn (Morelos, 76)


Alnwick, McRorie, Windass, Beerman

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