Rangers’ CL dream is over, having succumbed to a well-organised Malmo who came to Ibrox with a game plan and executed it clearly.
The match, little more than a carbon copy of the first leg in which a decent first 30 minutes fell flat and led to two suckerpunches after half time, was a lesson in taking your chances and being experienced enough at this level to be canny at it.
Malmo might not be Real Madrid, and as a team have borderline equal experience to this Rangers unit, but individually their players have dozens to hundreds of CL appearances at all levels for other clubs and they used that experience and wisdom far better than Rangers could with just two CL veterans.
Sadly also many of Rangers’ frailties from past season are being brought to the fore again, with accusations of favouritism being an Achilles heel of Stevie G, and it did feel in many ways like 30 minutes onwards was a compilation of everything that has gone wrong for the manager before 55 came along.
The crowd played their part tonight, as we pled them to – they were loud, proud, and only capitulated when there was 20 minutes to go and no sign of life from the team at all.
So we cannot blame the fans for not getting behind the team.
But this squad has hit its limit – it’s not capable of CL in its present form, with teams way better than Malmo to face, and the reality is what we said – third qualifying round of the CL is slightly above the last 16 of the UEL, and we couldn’t crack that one either.
This was a stage too far for this team, and it’s still got some way to go before it’s strong enough for the CL. Of course, that’s a slight moot point given SPL winners get the group stage automatically after this season, but with Rangers’ disappointing start this campaign, we have be careful about what our ambitions are now.
We’re not going to overreact, nor are we going to be stupidly positive. Tonight was a harsh lesson that we’re just not there yet, but it doesn’t detract from what we achieved last season.
For now, this is a UEL-level club. Whether Stevie can raise it higher in time only he knows.
But we live to fight another day.