Giovanni van Bronckhorst admitted Rangers were “lucky” to only lose 2-0 in their third qualifying round tie at Union Saint-Gilloise which leaves their Champions League hopes at severe risk.
Teddy Teuma scored the Belgian side’s first European goal in 58 years during the first half before Dante Vanzeir converted a second-half penalty after Connor Goldson, following a VAR check, was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area.
Jon McLaughlin made an important late save to deny Vanzeir before James Tavernier cleared off the visitors’ line in injury time to keep Rangers in the tie, but they still have it all to do in the second leg next week if they are to reach the group stage.
“It was very disappointing. We were a little bit lucky that it was only 2-0 even though the penalty decision – I was surprised he gave a penalty,” Van Bronckhorst told Premier Sports. “We have so much at stake with all the clubs involved in the competition, you want to make the right decisions. We couldn’t do anything else with the deflection, with the handball.
“The penalty was given, they scored and the most important thing now is to reflect on our own game because we need to change it around next Tuesday and we need to change it around big time, and the performance needs to be a lot better than we showed today.”
How Rangers were beaten in Brussels
Rangers started brightly with Borna Barisic drawing a fine save from keeper Anthony Moris, who then saved long-distance drives from James Sands and new signing Malik Tillman.
But USG came alive when Vanzeir slid a cross from Simon Adingra, on loan from Brighton, just past the near post before captain Teuma’s drive which found its way past McLaughlin.
Bart Nieuwkoop drove inches wide of McLaughlin’s left-hand post from the edge of the box just before the hour which prompted Van Bronckhorst to bring on Ridvan Yilmaz and Ben Davies for their debuts.
However, the changes couldn’t stop the home side’s pressure with McLauglin saving from Adinga and then Vanzeir before a VAR check led to referee Irfan Peljto deciding Teuma’s drive which hit the arm of Goldson was deserving of a penalty, dispatched by Vanzeir.
The Rangers keeper then denied Vanzeir to prevent it becoming 3-0 before Tavernier cleared off the line in added time to prevent further woe.
Van Bronckhorst: ‘We need to change it around big-time’
Rangers manager Van Bronckhorst on Premier Sports:
“It was very disappointing. We have so much at stake in this month, qualifying for the Champions League, but the performance today was below par.
“At the beginning they dropped deep which means they were afraid but we didn’t do anything with our ball possession and were sloppy, losing a lot of ball, not winning the duels, and slowly they became better and better.
“We didn’t react well after that, we were never really in the game, we made many mistakes, giving a lot of transition moments away defensively and we were a little bit lucky that it was only 2-0 even though the penalty decision – I was
surprised he gave a penalty.
“We have so much at stake with all the clubs involved in the competition, you want make the right decisions. We couldn’t do anything else with the deflection, with the handball.
“The penalty was given, they scored and the most important thing now is to reflect on our own game because we need to change it around next Tuesday and we need to change it around big-time and the performance needs to be a lot better than we showed today.”
Boyd: Rangers looked a shadow of their Europa run
Former Rangers striker Chris Boyd on Sky Sports News:
“Rangers never really started. The run they went on in Europe last season had energy, pressing teams from the front, stopping teams getting out – I never saw any of it tonight.
“They were really sloppy with the ball. If anybody in Scotland underestimated the Belgians tonight then they’ve got a wake-up call. They’ve shown they can compete at this level. They’ve been a club on the rise since Brighton’s Tony Bloom took control and were runners-up last year to Club Brugge. There’s no shame in that from where they’ve been.
“Rangers have got to be doing better than what they did tonight. They looked slow, lethargic, similar to the first half on Saturday [against Livingstone]. It was really, really poor. They’re lucky to come away with a 2-0 defeat. Rangers going back to Ibrox with a 2-0 defeat is probably the best they could have hoped for at this moment in time.
“They’re going to need that Ibrox crowd but the players are going to have to put on a far better performance. They looked a shadow of the team we saw last year in Europe.”
Rangers will host Union Saint-Gilloise in the second leg on Tuesday August 9 – the loser of the tie will go into the Europa League group stage.
Before then, Gers return to league action at home to Kilmarnock this Saturday at 3pm. Rangers won their Scottish Premiership opener 2-1 at Livingston as they bid to reclaim the title off champions Celtic.