Rangers must accept reality - getting anything out of this group would match last season's exploits

It was a significant day to be on Merseyside on Wednesday. Not only was it the morning after Liverpool had beaten Scottish opposition in a competitive match at Anfield for the first time in 42 years.

It also marked 10,000 days since Everton last won a trophy – the FA Cup in 1995.

Football can come at you fast. Just ask Rangers. Only six weeks ago they were celebrating reaching the Champions League group stage for the first time in a dozen years. Now they are licking their wounds after a third straight defeat. They’ve yet to score a goal.

Hide Ad

A 4-0, 3-0 and now 2-0 defeat suggests they are slowly getting better. However, such incremental improvements might still not be enough to take anything from next week’s return game with Liverpool at Ibrox.

Rangers found it hard to live with Liverpool's intensity and quality at Anfield.
Hide Ad

Rangers have been found wanting at Europe’s top table, although there is no disgrace in this.

Nothing sums up the gulf in resources like the strange case of Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan striker signed for Liverpool for a club record £85million during the summer and has still to open his goal account at Anfield. He has been left on the bench in recent weeks after he lost his place following a red card for a headbutt against Crystal Palace. He returned to the starting line-up against Rangers at Anfield but was foiled by a 40-year-old phenomenon called Allan McGregor.

Hide Ad

Nevertheless, he received a generous ovation from the home fans when he was substituted with ten minutes left. One goal so far. £85m.

Liverpool played four forwards from the start. They swarmed over Rangers. Brazil’s Roberto Firmino was not even selected as one of the four starters. He appeared with 21 minutes left.

Hide Ad
Liverpool's £85million striker Darwin Nunez failed to fire against Rangers.

As for Rangers, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s mind appears to have been made up when it comes to the question of who is better equipped for these tough European fixtures, Alfredo Morelos or Antonio Colak, but it might need to be re-made. Morelos was anonymous along with too many of his teammates.

Hide Ad

The English-based newspapers came to the same conclusion. Damp squib. No contest. The Liverpool Echo’s home player ratings column was littered with 7s and 8s. The inference was clear. No one had to exert themselves.

Liverpool were saving themselves for Sunday’s trip to the Emirates to play Arsenal. Jurgen Klopp will hope his side are sufficiently in command at Ibrox next week to make substitutions with the next game in mind: Manchester City at Anfield.

Hide Ad

Sad to say, such Premier League clashes are the real battles of Britain. As much as the atmosphere crackled around the perimeter of the pitch, Tuesday's cross-border contest never truly ignited. “Only half-way” said Klopp afterwards. Next week at Ibrox was a “different game, a different occasion”.

The Liverpool manager was being kind to Rangers. He was being kind to Scottish football. “But you’re right,” he smiled after he had provided a ‘getting better’ analysis of Scottish football, or at least Scottish football’s two biggest clubs. “It’s not my problem”.

Hide Ad

He has plenty of his own. How to get an £85m forward scoring, for example. There are levels and there are levels.

It’s tough, but Rangers must accept that. Three more Champions League matches remain: Liverpool again then Napoli and Ajax. Make no mistake, if they finish third in this group, as is still possible, it will match reaching the Europa League final last season.