UFA assistant manager Dmitri Kirichenko has opened fire on Rangers and Steven Gerrard ahead of Thursday night’s match.
Rangers host Spartak Moscow on match-day three of the Europa League. The Gers also knocked out Spartak’s fellow Russian outfit UFA in the playoff round of the competition.
Gerrard’s men took a 1-0 lead to Russia before having two players sent off in the away leg. Despite losing Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan to reds, Gerrard’s Gers managed to see the game out at 1-1.
Kirichenko appears to have plenty of regrets about the contest, and has brushed off talk of Gerrard’s tactical mind. Speaking ahead of the match, Kirichenko dismissed Rangers’ threat.
“I treated Steven Gerrard the footballer with great respect. He was a very strong player, a leader and a real captain. But as a manager, he is still very young and the Rangers game went exactly as we expected, given what happened after the first match. He did nothing special tactically.
“Rangers came and defended for 90 minutes and it was up to us to try and break them down. We knew they would do that. Unfortunately, we could not score twice. But we can only blame ourselves – everything was in our hands and we should have scored more than one goal.
“If we had scored our goal earlier, Rangers would have collapsed. Spartak certainly shouldn’t be in fear of the Scots. We regret not beating Rangers – we certainly should have.”
It appears that Kirichenko seems to have some sour grapes about what went down in the playoff tie. His side had it all in their own hands against nine-man Rangers, but found the Gers too tough to break down.
Rangers defending heroically that evening, and Gerrard deserves credit for managing to see it out. It was a terrific performance over the course of the 180 minutes played in the tie.
Many teams with weaker character than Rangers wouldn’t have seen the game out so comfortably. Ufa of course missed chances, but you would expect them to have created some against nine men.
Despite Kirichenko’s dismissive claims about Gerrard’s tactical brain, it must be bigger than his. Rangers are into the group stages and performing tremendously well, whilst Ufa are slumped down in 15th in the Russian Premier League.
Spartak will provide a sterner test than UFA did, but Gerrard will know that. Rangers have to be at it from the start or risk being punished.
As for Kirichenko and his Ufa side, he should perhaps focus on more pressing concerns for his club such as a relegation dogfight.