Rangers' Liverpool humiliation: An atrocious Champions League performance as Ibrox left stunned and silenced by second-half capitulation

Rangers won’t want to run into Liverpool again in a hurry. After 130 years without a competitive meeting between the teams, two within eight days proved far too challenging for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.

The hosts were desperate to give a better account of themselves than they had managed at Anfield. And they did – for the first 45 minutes, during which time they took the lead through Scott Arfield. But they could not cope with Roberto Firmino. And they certainly could not cope with Mo Salah, who came off the bench in the second half to score a six-minute hat-trick – the fastest in Champions League history.

This was a patched-up Rangers forced into running repairs after Connor Goldson had sustained a knock while challenging Darwin Nunez just before half time. The 18-year-old Leon King, who started the 2-0 defeat at Anfield last week, replaced him. But Rangers should still not be conceding seven goals. Not to anyone. And certainly not at Ibrox, where so many had confidently predicted it would be a different story for shaky, unsure Liverpool.

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The visitors responded by dealing out Rangers’ joint worst-ever defeat. Oh, this was historic all right. Just for all the wrong reasons as far as the Ibrox club were concerned.

Roberto Firmino continued his good Liverpool form against Rangers at Ibrox.

Jurgen Klopp made a point of shaking Goldson’s hand as he went off. The Liverpool manager was beginning to enjoy his first trip Ibrox and was savouring it even more after his side had comprehensively overturned the lead Arfield gave Rangers after 17 minutes.

Rangers’ backline were flummoxed by Firmino. An experienced skipper in James Tavernier came up short, so what hope King – such a promising prospect but it still feeling his way in the professional game – of containing him? The teenager lost Firmino in the box as the Brazilian swept home his second of the night ten minutes after the break. The No 9 had already headed his side’s equaliser after schoolboy defending at a corner. Accusatory fingers pointed at Tavernier on this occasion.

Culpability was shared by others too. Even Allan McGregor, so valiant at Anfield eight days earlier, fell below his own high standards to allow Liverpool to tie-up the points by midway point of the second half. His poor kickout was picked up in midfield by Jordan Henderson. Three passes later, one of them a delicious back heel from Firmino, and the ball was in the net. Nunez had finally managed to beat McGregor, who denied him with several fine saves in Liverpool last week.

The veteran did save Rangers from an even greater margin of defeat here. One block from Salah prevented a fourth for Liverpool but it was simply a matter of this being delayed. The same player tucked a shot through McGregor after some brilliant close control near the byline. Salah then completely took over. Bang, bang. Hat-trick.

Scott Arfield put Rangers ahead with a nice goal at Ibrox.

It verged on a complete embarrassment and become one when teenager Harvey Elliott’s volley was deemed to be onside after a VAR check. And unlike against Napoli, when they lost three second half goals, Rangers had eleven men.

Klopp clearly had one eye on the clash with Manchester City – and what some would contend was the real Battle of Britain – on Sunday, with Salah one of three players dropped to the bench. The manager was also clearly trying to freshen things up after a period of troubling form.

“You only need to put the lights on and Ibrox flies,” Klopp had suggested on the eve of the match. Although this was his first visit, he wasn’t wrong. Of course, it helps if the home team are firing all cylinders. It helps if they are stringing passes together and biting into tackles. All of this was present here – in the opening stages, at least. It was every bit as “hectic” as Van Bronckhorst had predicted – although he could not have envisioned the hellish scene it later became as Rangers reaped a Liverpool second-half whirlwind.

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The first half was more to the manager's liking. "Royal Rampant Rangers” a banner promised in the Broomloan Stand. The hosts were at least making Liverpool work and asking questions of them. None of this had been the case on Merseyside. An early Ryan Jack challenge on Nunez rattled the Uruguayan striker but was declared perfectly legal by referee Slavko Vincic, the man in charge of last season’s Europa League final.

Rangers' Connor Goldson leaves the field in pain after picking up an injury.

Like then, Rangers took the lead – and did so via a player bursting through the middle and finishing with nerveless precision into the corner. Jack was the architect having spotted Arfield’s run through a glaring gap in the visitors’ defence. As in Seville, when Joe Aribo found the corner low to the Eintracht Frankfurt ‘keeper’s left, Arfield finished impeccably. The only difference being he did so with his right foot rather than left.

As on that night, the intensity could not be maintained. Rangers’ familiar defensive frailties cost them. There was one opportunity to stretch their lead when Joe Gomez was short with a backpass but Antonio Colak, who as expected had received the nod over Alfredo Morelos, could not secure a proper connection on the ball.

Minutes later, Liverpool were level. What a cheap goal to concede. Once again, it was corner – a very simple one in this case – that did for Rangers. Kostas Tsimikas slung a kick in that cleared Fashion Sakala’s head but not that of Roberto Firmino, who glanced a header into the top corner under the scantest of challenges from Tavernier. How many times?

Rangers responded positively, at least. Sakala left Tsimikas standing on the left and cut the ball back for Arfield. His attempt to steer the ball into the net from eight yards was thwarted by a fine block from Konate.

Goldson’s injury shortly afterwards was the beginning of the end for the home side, who were torn apart in the second 45 minutes. Somehow it remains possible for Rangers to reach third place in Group A and extend their European football campaign until after Christmas. However, that is cold comfort just now.

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