Rangers' rout latest Champions League lesson for Scotland's Old Firm

Rangers’ 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool set a new record low for the Glasgow giants on home soil, but was just the latest lesson for Scottish clubs at the Champions League level.

After just four games of the group stage, both Celtic and Rangers have already been eliminated from the Champions League and need a series of results to go their way to have any chance of even dropping into the Europa League.

The second tier of European club competition is what both teams of the Old Firm divide have become accustomed to in recent years and where they are more protected from the financial gulf separating them from Europe’s elite.

Rangers even reached the Europa League final just five months ago, only a penalty shootout separating Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men from glory against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

Fast forward to Wednesday night and Van Bronckhorst was ashen-faced as he stood in front of the media trying to explain a second-half capitulation that saw Rangers concede seven times on home soil for the first time ever.

All the more galling for Rangers is that Liverpool has so far this season looked far from the side that came so close to an unprecedented quadruple of trophies last season.

Jurgen Klopp’s men have won just five games all season -- two of which have come against Rangers in six days.

For 45 minutes, the home team was able to prey on Liverpool’s insecurities at Ibrox. Scott Arfield raised the roof with Rangers' first Champions League goal for 12 years to open the scoring.

A return to European soccer’s premier competition was celebrated as the culmination of Rangers’ renaissance from the lower leagues of Scottish soccer over the past decade due to a financial implosion.

But the dream has quickly turned into a nightmare as four games and four defeats in, it has conceded 16 goals.

“The performance, the result, is not the way we want to represent this club,” said Van Bronckhorst. “We have no excuses.”

One mitigating factor for the former Dutch captain is the vast gulf in resources on offer to him and Jurgen Klopp.

The Liverpool boss was able to bring Mohamed Salah off the bench to score the fastest ever Champions League hat-trick in just over six minutes. The Reds’ major summer signing Darwin Nunez, who scored the third goal, cost more than Rangers’ revenues for the 2020-21 season.

Hapless Hoops. Celtic has suffered a similar fate in shipping seven goals to Barcelona and Paris St. Germain in its most recent dalliances with the Champions League prior to this season.

The Hoops have avoided such humiliation this season, but still find themselves with just one point from four games after back-to-back defeats to RB Leipzig, mired in mid-table in the Bundesliga.

Celtic’s Champions League campaign has been littered with missed opportunities with just two goals to show from 41 shots inside the box in four games.

"It is the hardest part of the game,” said Ange Postecoglou of his team’s profligacy. “It is why clubs spend hundreds of millions of dollars on players who do that.

“It’s not a case of sitting there and thinking ‘take your opportunities’. It is about experience, composure at this level. The fine lines and the stresses that are involved in playing at the highest level of club football.”

Yet, the Glasgow giants cannot be shielded from all criticism by pleading poverty at the top level for a similar financial advantage to which they enjoy in Scottish soccer.

Belgian champion Club Brugge has already sealed its place in the last 16. Israel’s Maccabi Haifa stunned Juventus 2-0 this week, while even in Celtic’s group Shakhtar Donetsk has shrugged off losing most of their star foreign players due to the war in Ukraine to take points off Real Madrid and Leipzig.

The mood of supporters in Glasgow tends to be set by who is on top in the see-saw battle for domestic dominance between Celtic and Rangers.

But a sobering week for Scottish soccer has exposed how far off both clubs are from making an impact on the Champions League.


© Agence France-Presse

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