Attention, Europe – The Rangers are here
Rangers’ victory at Borussia Dortmund on Thursday will go down as one of their greatest ever. But in the more immediate future, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have shown they are a side to be feared in the Europa League.
Dortmund were among the favorites to win the competition overall, but faced a rather unfamiliar entity at Rangers – meaning the two sides hadn’t faced each other in European competition for 22 years.
But the German side – currently second in the Bundesliga – never really got into what was the 1,000th game at the Westfalendstadion, but Rangers were never intimidated by the occasion, venue or opponent.
They pressed Dortmund from the first minute and some bad defensive errors from the hosts saw Rangers take the lead. Dan-Axel Zagadou handled the ball for the opening penalty and turned the ball into his own net for Rangers’ fourth.
Dortmund’s marking was virtually non-existent on Alfredo Morelos as he easily cleared away the second goal and John Lundstram produced a quality moment for his strike just after the break.
Rangers deserved the win too. They were better trained, hungrier for victory and despite the plethora of stars scattered throughout Dortmund’s squad, they certainly had the best players on the night.
But a late goal from Raphael Guerreiro to make it 4-2 sets up a thrilling return game at Ibrox next Thursday. With away goals suppressed, Dortmund will need to score two to equalize and three to take the lead. They are also expected to have talismanic striker Erling Haaland in the squad – an entirely different and threatening prospect for Rangers.
But the Ibrox crowd come in as the 12th, 13th and even 14th man when their team needs them and with a sold-out arena you’d be backing Rangers to be able to see the draw, knocking out a European giant in one of their greatest achievements in continental competitions.
It will be a result that will have other teams across Europe sitting up and taking notice of Rangers. They won’t be afraid of any potential future opponents and hope a dream run to the final stages of the Europa League is on the cards.
Leicester are finally taking a step in the right direction
It may have looked like a worthless game, but it could turn out to be a very important moment and a launching pad for Leicester ahead of the rest of the season. Leicester had not won since beating Watford in the FA Cup in early January. They hope that this competition will allow them to regain their form.
Five games without a win with 12 goals conceded in the process was not enough for Brendan Rodgers which even led to speculation over his future.
Leicester are back on track and while a clean sheet eluded them again on Thursday night, they could well have scored a cricketing score but for the brilliance of Patrik Carlgren in Randers’ goal.
The hosts’ attempts to add to their lead included shots from Harvey Barnes, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Caglar Soyuncu while Daniel Amartey produced a remarkable miss after Soyuncu’s effort was parried, heading from close range as he looked certain to score.
With Wolves in the Premier League at Molineux on Sunday – live on Sky Sports – sandwiched between that tie, it was vital that Leicester gave an enthusiastic second-half response to concede just at half-time.
“Their goal was to remind you that you make mistakes, no matter how dominant you are, you can be punished,” Brendan Rodgers said. “Teams at this level can hurt you. It was about staying calm and keeping our football flowing, creating and taking risks.
“We should have won against West Ham, I felt. And in some other games we had draws when we should have won. This group will get back to their level, it’s just time and the players are coming back. The fluidity was good, We looked dynamic.
“Our goal for the rest of the season is to finish as high as possible in the league, to continue to develop, improve and bring players back. We want to finish as strong as possible and bring that to the season. this competition, everyone is here to win it and we are no different.”
After fading from strong starts over the past few seasons, Rodgers hopes it will spark the opposite trend this time around.
Celtic brought down to earth
Celtic headed into the first leg of Thursday night’s Europa Conference knockout game in good health, atop the Scottish Premiership following a magnificent 17-game unbeaten run that saw their fans to overtake Bodo/Glimt.
For one, the Norwegians hadn’t played since retaining their title on December 12, meaning they would surely suffer a bit of rust in what was a bouncing Parkhead before the kickoff. ‘mail.
Not only that, but the in-form Ange Postecoglou side had also brushed aside champions Rangers at home in early February, but that’s not how it went in Glasgow as the hosts were roughed up by opponents who had, do not. forget, humiliated Jose Mourinho’s Roma side 6-1 earlier in the competition.
You can see why based on this classy display, with the visitors fully deserving of their 3-1 lead heading into Thursday’s week-long second leg in what now looks like mission impossible for Celtic.