Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men were the meek prey for a large predator in their 2-0 Champion League loss away to Liverpool in midweek. They will be again on Wednesday, even with Jurgen Klopp’s team entering their domain. Little wonder they appeared to revel in the hunted becoming the hunter again - Rangers finding themselves in such a position to pounce most weeks in the domestic environment. Despite the more lop-sided 4-0 scoreline than at Anfield, the Paisley club produced more troubling moments than van Bronckhorst’s side fashioned four days earlier, Allan McGregor conjuring up two more cracking stops to deny Alex Grieve and Mark O’Hara.
Overall, though, Stephen Robinson’s men were easy meat for their hosts. And, once more, Antonio Colak was the man with the blunderbuss. Though that description doesn’t befit the craft of the Croatian. A double from him has taken his tally for the season to 13 goals in 16 outings. A total of 10 of these have come in the cinch Premiership across only nine appearances. The striker has become Rangers domestic destroyer but, with Alfredo Morelos preferred for the past two Champions League encounters, not a marksman his manager has decided to trust in their wholly more exacting continental environment. A situation that will surely alter come Wednesday’s return date with Liverpool at Ibrox. Meanwhile, who then features wide on the right in attack in what will surely be the van Bronckhorst default of a 4-2-3-1 formation - as opposed to the back-foot orientated 5-3-2 configuration that resulted in Rangers ceding all manner of territory at Anfield - could have been settled by Sakala making a mark.
Even as Colak was foremost among the five Rangers changes from midweek in stamping his imprint on the pock-marking of St Mirren’s recent form run, the reverse marking only their second defeat in seven outings. He settled the home team with a fifth-minute opener that was all about a striker’s sixth sense. A Borna Barisic low effort that thumped the post and diverted into the net in bouncing off him might have been unintentional, but the striker’s unexpected reward was the result of following in his countryman’s initial shot to nip ahead of Declan Gallagher.
The personal tussle between this pair was to shape the afternoon, with Gallagher making an unnecessary challenge from behind on the half hour to result in referee Nick Walsh awarding a penalty confidently tucked away by James Tavernier. Goal no.3 in the 73rd minute, meanwhile, was Colak at his most artful, sweetly turning inside Gallagher before exquisitely steering the ball in with the outside of his right foot. The scoring was completed in the final seconds of the 90 with a strike of significance for Sakala in proving his first since mid-May. A perfectly weighted through-ball from substitute Alfredo Morelos was delightful steered in at the far corner of Trevor Carson’s net by the smiley, likeable Zambian, whose earlier driving run had proved the genesis for Colak’s second. Brushing aside St Mirren is a world apart from standing up to Liverpool but Colak and Sakala have earned the right to attempt the latter.