Servette forward Dereck Kutesa was left rueing a massive Jack Butland save as Rangers reached the UEFA Champions League play-offs with a 1-1 draw in Switzerland on Tuesday night.
Mick Beale signed Jack Butland for nights like this. And, as Rangers rode their luck away from home against Servette, Allan McGregor’s replacement did a more-than passable impression on his legendary predecessor; standing strong and tall just when his team-mates needed him the most.
Butland had already pulled off one eye-catching save before Dereck Kutesa found himself baring down on goal late in the first half. The Servette forward had already hit the back of the Rangers net with a stunning curling shot early on, but could not repeat the trick as Butland read his intentions and parried clear.
A 2-0 deficit, going into the interval, could have been fatal for Rangers’ Champions League ambitions. Fortunately, Beale has a man for the biggest occasions leading by example between the sticks.
Jack Butland shines for Rangers in Champions League
“If I raise my head, I can see Jeremy Guillemenot (waiting for a pass). But I didn’t really have time to play it with the defender sticking to me. I could only choose the kick,” Kutesa sighs, reflecting on that sliding door’s moment with RTS.
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“I tried to place (the shot) between the keeper’s legs…”
That was not the only more-than presentable opportunity squandered by the home side, Servette managing more shots on target (five) than their hosts.
“If you have such chances as we did in the first half, then you have to score goals at this level,” coach Rene Weiler adds, Butland making another fine shop before denying Kutesa a famous brace (Nau).
Rangers will have to up their game against Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in the play-off round, however. The Glasgow giants defeated PSV at the same stage 12 months ago, but will not have matchwinner Malik Tillman in their ranks this time around.
In an intriguing twist of fate, the American international will be returning to Ibrox in the red-and-white of PSV on August 22nd.