Rangers are still in Group G. A battling second-half display saw Steven Gerrard’s men pick up one of the four points they need to reach the last 32 of the Europa League. Rangers now sit on six points and have set up a winner-takes-all clash with current group leaders Rapid. It’s sure to be an interesting night in two weeks’ time.
However, I will look at some of the main talking points that arose from the 0-0 draw with the Villarreal at Ibrox:
Allan McGregor – “wow”
Steven Gerrard described his saves as “world-class,” but that’s what you come to expect from Allan McGregor. Even at 36, his reflexes are still as sharp as ever. Karl Toko Ekambi must be wondering what he had to do to score. Both saves were superb; the second one, in particular, was outstanding, though. Ekambi did everything right, lifted it and McGregor’s left hand came to the rescue. Again, McGregor proved why he is ahead of Wes Foderingham in the pecking order. He makes those big saves at big moments in the game.
Rangers showed great commitment and maturity after the red card
The game was always going to be tough. However, after Daniel Candeias’ sending off, the toughness level went up a notch. But Steven Gerrard went with a 4-3-2, with Middleton playing off Morelos and Rangers more than held their own. The shape when out of possession was very good. It forced Villarreal to go wide and blocked off the central areas where they were most threatening.
The players gave every ounce of effort they could muster while sticking to their shape and they fully deserved the point in the end. Credit to the manager for making the correct subs as well. It was a fantastic team effort all round and every one of them deserves a massive pat on the back. The attitude and maturity when playing in Europe, Spartak away aside, has been great to see, especially for what is a young side in terms of European experience.
Refereeing decisions ‘even themselves out’ – not in this group they don’t
Yet again. Rangers are the victim of a poor refereeing decision in this group. Three times now that Rangers have been on the wrong end of the referee and his officials. Rapid’s goal at Ibrox was offside yet was allowed to stand, Morelos’ onside goal in Moscow was disallowed and then we have this idiotic decision to send off Daniel Candeias. The whole situation is avoided if the ref gives the free-kick for the foul on James Tavernier, but that’s too easy for him to give. He lets it go and somehow comes to the conclusion to send Candeias off for a foul on Caseres.
It was a disgrace from a ref who had a poor night all round. But again, that should not distract from the performance the team put in during the second half in a game that seemed like it was 10 vs 12 for the most of it.