Union Saint-Gilloise’s home win, heralded as a continuation of the club’s fairytale rise through the ranks to the Jupiler League summit, was outdone by three goals from James Tavernier, Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman which ‘said goodbye to the wonder years’ according to Standaard.
Bart Lagae lamented: “More than the lost title in the 2021-2022 season, the bitter Champions League elimination in Glasgow marks the end of an era for Union. One in which the wonder years give way to a raw search for a place in the football elite.”
His Belgian press colleagues saw hopes of a Champions league double with Club Bruges already in pot four, ended at Ibrox and the atmosphere – cranked up by more than 50,000 fans and much talked about pre-match was described as ‘white-hot’ by Gilles Joinau in DHN.
"After the calm comes the storm,” he wrote and USG ‘took on water against Rangers’ with the stadium ‘boiling’.
Ibrox exploded with the goal every Scotsman craved said Pieter-Jan Calcoen in Standaard, describing James Tavernier’s penalty shortly before half-time, one that he too lamented.
"It was inexplicable. What possessed Siebe Van der Heyden to put his upper arm against yet another successfully dropped long ball on the stroke of half-time? Greece's Anastasios Sidiropoulos pointed decisively to the penalty spot - such stupidity deserved a penalty. James Tavernier took the gift with thanks.”
"Bye bye dream, bye bye millions,” he added.
Union’s approach after the 2-0 win was also decried from sections of the home press, much like Rangers’ tactics in Leuven were amongst Scotland’s media last week.
Het Laatste Nieuws quoted Marc Degryse saying: “Jan Mulder said beforehand that people always underestimate Union. But tonight they underestimated themselves. They didn't try anything.”
Mulder added: “This is not an honorable loss. This is their own fault. The coach let his team play against his nature. They created zero chances after the break. That is due to the timid attitude that is prompted by the policy maker.”
Standaard also noted the defensive nature of the visitors after conceding. “It was interesting to see whether Union – which until then made many small mistakes and wasted time – could make the change: from purely defending to occasionally sticking their nose in the window. In any case, Van Bronckhorst was not in the mood to speculate on extensions: these fans would not allow it either.”
They didn’t and Rangers progressed, re-writing an unwanted club record of never having overcome a 2-0 deficit in Europe, while ending the Champions League dream of the 2021 Belgian second-tier winners.
“The stunt never happened,” wrote Nieuwsblad columnist Ludo Vandewalle, who blamed Union’s inexperience for their elimination. “The vice champion was a shadow of the slick team that played away the Rangers last week. Add to that the blunders of Van der Heyden and Moris and the fate was sealed. Now the group stage of the Europa League awaits.”
His title also looked forward to the Europa League draw for Union with Manchester United and Roma amongst potential opponents.
"And so the Champions League adventure is over after only two matches,” added Pierre-Jan Calcoen. “The hymn hasn't even sounded. Nobody can take the Unionists away from the beautiful evening in Leuven, but it could have been so much nicer. It is especially unfortunate that the elimination was due to individual blunders and that Union as a collective thought too little about football. Let it be a lesson for the Europa League, where good teams will also come along.”
Rangers’ test comes with PSV Eindhoven next week.