How Belgium's press reacted to Rangers' defeat - 'European royalty', Tillman 'lacked punch', boss 'fatalistic'

Belgium’s media continued to savour the Union Saint-Gilloise fairytale as the latest chapter saw Europa League runners-up Rangers put to the sword in Leuven in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier.

Little over a year ago, Union were in Belgium’s second tier, but after a remarkable season sealed a place at European football’s top table and narrowly missed out on a national title in the process.

Scottish football had its own fairytale last season with Arbroath’s tilt at the Championship and a similar, if greater, storyline in Brussels continues to be told.

"It was only thanks to the miracle year 2021-2022 that Union was allowed to taste European football again,” wrote Bart Lagae in Standaard, praising Rangers as “European royalty”.

"Glasgow Rangers, trained by Dutch Champions League winner Giovanni van Bronckhorst, is a Europa League finalist of the year. On paper, the Belgian vice-champion had little chance against the 55-times champion of Scotland.”

That would change later.

“Without trembling, the Union took an option on the Champions League play-offs,” said L’Derniere Heure’s Stephane Lecaillon.

"Does anyone dare to state with certainty that a new fairy tale is impossible?" asked Niels Poissonnier in Her Laaste Nieuws.

Rangers' English defender James Tavernier and Saint-Gilloise's French-Malagasy forward Loic Lapoussin fall during the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg match between Rangers and Royale Union Saint-Gilloise at the "Den Dreef Stadium" in Heverlee. (Photo by LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

HLN went on to describe the 2-0 victory as “a real stunt” in a report headlined ‘Union now also surprises in Europe! Brussels residents dominate against weak Rangers’.

Connor Goldson's penalty decision for handball was “unlucky” they said – though Standaard highlighted several players off the pace among the visitors.

"Union's 6,000 supporters already vocally mastered the 1,500 Scottish fans and would continue to carry their team.

" The Rangers failed to get back into the game. If there ever was a good cross, striker Antonio Colak or Bayern’s Malik Tillman lacked punch. Schalke acquisition Rabbi Matondo, who was with Cercle last season, also appeared pale,” wrote Bart Lagae.

Referee Irfan Peljto watches a scene on the VAR video assistant referee screen (Photo by LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Nieuwsblad was fulsome in praise of the hosts, "just about every Scot we encountered before the game could barely stand on his feet from saturation – the terraces in Leuven can be extremely cozy. Today, however, it is not just the beer that will cause a hangover. How good Union were,” wrote Pieter-Jan Calcoen. "The stars could not be counted on one hand.

"Union was not upset and took the match piece by piece, with the tandem Lapoussin-Adingra on the left flank scourging the Scots.”

L’Dernier Heure described Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s post-match assessment as "almost fatalistic” as the teams prepared for the second leg in Glasgow next week.

USG goalkeeper Anthony Moris said: "What an incredible atmosphere despite the fact that it's not in our stadium. We were less experienced than Rangers but our desire and our determination helped us win the game tonight. The first quarter of an hour was difficult but afterwards we got into this match well. Once we knew how to get our bearings, it all worked out on its own with the result we have today".

Union's Christian Burgess in action against Rangers. (Photo by BRUNO FAHY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

In Standaard Lagae warned: “Next week at Ibrox, the Rangers have to work hard to reach the group stage of the Champions League. It seems like a perfect scenario for Union, who will be able to take advantage of the space to try and get one round against PSV or Monaco.”

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