Pedro Caixinha urged Rangers fans not to expect miracles after his side’s narrow win over Luxembourg side Progres Niederkorn.
A first competitive European match in six years did not go quite as planned for the new-look Ibrox team. Kenny Miller’s 37th-minute goal is all that separates the sides ahead of next week’s second-leg.
Caixinha included three new signings in his starting team, while two more made their debuts from the bench.
But it was the same old story of a lack of cutting edge in front of 48,000 fans at Ibrox. The bumper crowd showed there was no shortage of appetite for the tie, which marked Rangers’ return to the European arena.
Caixinha refused to blame his players’ physical condition after such an early return to competitive action. Rangers have played only three closed-doors games prior to this Europa League first qualifying round assignment. But he stressed there’s only so much he can do in such a short space of time as new signings seek to bed in.
“It is not a question of fitness,” said Caixinha. “I am not a guy who can create miracles in three weeks. The team needs to get into the rhythm of playing. You only get it by playing and by time.
“As you know, it’s normally after five or six weeks of pre-season a team is ready to play; we have had just three.
“We know the reality we are facing. Overall the fitness levels were very good. It was a good rhythm. It is not a question of fitness.
“It is about better finishing and more aggression.”
Caixinha knows the fans will expect results quickly and admitted he himself was not of a mind to give his players too much time to click into gear.
“I am not a patient man but we need to understand where we are,” he added. “This is the first challenge. We were all expecting to win by some more; but we need to give credit to the opposition. They did a great job defending.”
Rangers dominated in the first-half and led at the interval after Miller’s goal, swept in after a quickly-taken free-kick. Ibrox defender David Bates had a header cleared off the line at the end.
Caixinha praised Niko Kranjcar, who played for the first time since October after recovering from a serious knee injury just months after he joined the club.
“He is a fantastic player,” the Rangers manager said. “He is a playmaker and understands the game. We were playing some fantastic football because of him. He knows how to play between the lines.
“We are building a team. It is always better to begin building with a win, even if is a small win. We want to progress and keep going in this competition. But in the second leg we need to do more.”