It would have to be said Connor Goldson and James Tavernier’s Champions League debuts were pretty poor at best.
Now, we’ve been waxing lyrical about our players’ values and how this guy is worth £20M and that one £15M, but when push comes to shove, none of our players demonstrated the quality we’d expect from players valued in those numbers.
And Tavernier, who had a ridiculous first half of the season last term but an average second half, while Goldson had his strongest as a Ranger, were two of the biggest disappointments where our captain and vice captain needed to show up.
Maybe we’re a little harsh – Tav did have one spectacular run in the first half which, with a better ball, would have led to a goal.
But that was pretty much all he did and his defending, or lack of, cost Rangers two goals, just like it did v Young Boys.
You learn a tonne more in defeat about yourself than you do in victory, and this match was a vital lesson to Rangers, Goldson and Tavernier in particular, about the dangers of believing your own hype.
We’re fans, we’re allowed to big up our players. When you’ve had the success over the past season we have, it’s allowed.
But players have to stay grounded, and too many of our personnel looked like they thought this was still the Europa League. There was a real shellshock after the double whammy, as if ‘how could this happen’.
Well, if you defend anything other than brilliantly at this level, you pay the price.
Yes, there are a few mitigating factors – Malmo are deep into their domestic season (for what that’s worth), and they got the weekend off (for what that’s worth) plus they have a tonne more CL experience than us (for what that’s worth) and we are missing a lot of our players.
But few to no Rangers fans used these as reasons they were worried pre-match so they sound like excuses to us. We still fielded a very good team.
No, we played poorly overall, and Malmo exploited it. Stevie wasn’t wrong that his side need to raise their level significantly for the return leg, and hopefully this match was a huge lesson that guys like Goldson and Tavernier have much to learn about playing at this level.
Hopefully they’ll learn the lot in 7 days.