The Dutchman maintained there were “positives” to be gleaned from a fifth straight Group A loss that leaves them requiring to beat Ajax 5-0 in their closing sectional encounter to remain in Europe after Christmas. But encouraged to see these as giving reason to draw confidence ahead of the meeting with the Pittodrie men he understandably sought to draw a line between the two very different challenges. The latter a league clash he daren’t lose with his position having come under scrutiny amid a series of underwhelming performances.
“You have to take into account which competition you play now,” he said to the suggestion. “For us it is a big step up to the level we are facing at the moment [in the Champions League]. We have to take our positives out of the [Napoli] game and make sure we are ready again on Saturday. It is a big game for us at home after dropping two points in the last weekend [at home to Livingston]. So we have to be ready and that is what we are going to do. We will make sure we recover well and be ready to face Aberdeen.”
Rangers exhibited more life and enterprise in the most unforgiving environment of the Diego Maradona stadium against the Serie A leaders who have now racked up a club-record 12 straight victories, and that naturally framed their manager’s assessment of a defeat not in any way as scaring as previous lashings in the tournament. Especially with Giovanni Simeone striking twice inside five minutes to put his team 2-0 early on.
“A defeat is a defeat but I think [we can look at] the way we lost today after two early goals within the first 15 minutes,” he said. “I think we gave the goals too easily. Two times two-against-one with our centre-backs, I think the movement of the strikers were excellent in the zones to be dangerous. After that we reacted really well, stayed in the game and could have scored and made it 2-1 just before half-time with [Alfredo] Morelos. And Malik [Tillman] also had a chance.
“In the second half I think we showed character. We were well organised and didn’t give any big chances away and were creating a lot of chances to make it 2-1. Two moments from Morelos. In the end we conceded a third goal from a setpiece but we can take a lot of positives although it is a loss, and a loss is a loss.”