Rangers 0 Napoli 3 Extras; Colak cover star curse, here come Dundee United and floodlights friendly revenge

Some observations after Rangers suffered a bruising 3-0 Champions League Group A defeat to Napoli on a controversial night at Ibrox. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side return to Premiership duty this weekend on the back of three heavy defeats.

The Rangers team for the Champions League clash against Napoli feature two veterans of their run to the Uefa Cup final in 2008  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
The Rangers team for the Champions League clash against Napoli feature two veterans of their run to the Uefa Cup final in 2008 (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Colak cover star curse

Programme editors are hostages to fortune. It’s an unavoidable hazard of the job. This point was proved again on Wednesday night when the handsome match programme for Rangers’ Champions League clash against Napoli featured Antonio Colak on the front cover.

The interview with the striker inside was headlined: “Star Man”. Colak expressed how much he was looking forward to hearing the crowd as the teams emerged from the tunnel before his first Champions League match at Ibrox.

Of course, that was still possible from the substitutes’ bench, where he spent the majority of the game after being dropped in favour of Alfredo Morelos, who he finally replaced with 18 minutes left.

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The Colombian striker, although clearly rusty, had done enough in most people’s eyes to retain the starting shirt against Dundee United on Saturday. We will see.

The difficulty of publishing deadlines being long in advance of the actual game was also underlined by there being no reference to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, something one might have otherwise expected.

Rangers need a goal and look who’s next….Dundee United.

Football supporters are a cruel lot. As one noted on Twitter, there’s been two Prime Ministers, a Queen and a King since Rangers last scored a goal – against Queen of the South in a 3-1 Premier Sports Cup win on 30 August.

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Scott Arfield has the honour of being the last Rangers player to hit the back of the net – not including unfortunate deflections in the 4-0 defeats against Celtic and Ajax.

It seems inconceivable that they won’t score on Saturday, particularly when up against the country’s most porous defence. But then Dundee United have just kept their first domestic clean sheet of the season and are showing signs of having overcome a catastrophic spell where they lost 23 goals in four games and scored just once.

Rangers still counting on European heroes…. from 2008

Much is made about the seemingly relentless churn of football players at clubs. It’s slightly different at Ibrox. The fans complain there isn’t enough churn. Although they did sign seven players during the summer, not one of them made Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s starting XI on Wednesday night. Some are injured, of course, but as many as five were keeping the bench warm. The team had a real European final feel about it – and we’re not just talking May’s Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt.

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Remarkably, two veterans of the Ibrox side’s march to the Uefa Cup final in Manchester in 2008 – before the Europa League was even in existence – started against Napoli, although of course Allan McGregor didn’t play in the semi-final or final due to injury. Steven Davis did, though, start at the City of Manchester Stadium. Their durability must be applauded but it poses further questions about player recruitment at Ibrox.

Floodlight friendly revenge

Napoli got some form of revenge on Rangers on Wednesday after 64 years. Their manager Luciano Spalletti wasn’t joking when he referred to last night’s Champions League clash as a “historical fixture”.

The programme for a floodlights friendly against the Italian side from Armistice day in 1958 was reprinted inside the programme for the Champions League re-match. It was fascinating to read about Napoli’s first ever foray abroad – they had just been beaten 6-0 by Sheffield Wednesday, a result the writer of the programme notes diplomatically states was “in some measure due to travel fatigue”.

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The Rangers chairman John F Wilson rounded off his column with an affable message for the Italian tourists. “Let the warmth of our welcome make you forget the coldness and chillness in the air,” he wrote. Rangers won 5-2, with goals from Davie Wilson (2), Harold Davis, Max Murray and Andy Matthew, who scored from the spot. So it’s currently 5-5 on aggregate prior to the next clash at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium next month.

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