Rangers reaction: Superiority over PSV Eindhoven; Antonio Colak creeping up; referee latest visitor to suffer Ibrox wilt

The real hard work for Rangers to snare Champions League group stage football may begin next week, but recent European graft by club offers some encouragement.

Rangers’ superiority over PSV Eindhoven

There is no question that PSV Eindhoven will be favourites to progress from their Champions League play-off tie with Rangers, the opening leg of which brings them to Glasgow next Tuesday. Starting with their 5-3 success over Ajax in Johan Cruyff Shield final curtain-raiser for the season, 13 goals in their first four competitive outings - the most notable haul coming courtesy of the 3-2 extra-time win that took them past Monaco in last night’s third round decider - Ruud van Nistelrooy’s men are currently displaying real menace. They represent a daunting opponent.

Yet, the Dutch side could only offer up the same of their Scottish rivals. Indeed, anything PSV have been able to do in European competition in recent seasons, Rangers have been able to do better. Their ability to break new ground had merely its latest expression with the thrilling 3–0 victory over Union Saint-Gilloise that led to them becoming the first Ibrox side to overcome a 2-0 away first leg deficit in a home second of a European tie. As Rangers made it all the way to a first Europa League final last season, the Dutch club had their participation in the competition ended at the group stages (both dropping into the second tier tournament through losing Champions League qualifiers). The year before, PSV went out at the last 32 stages as Rangers matched their then best showing in it by reaching the last 16. A feat they first achieved the previous campaign as the Eindhoven side departed at the group stage. Rangers were 33rd in the UEFA rankings at the conclusion of last season, with PSV joint 49th. There is a reason for the differential.

Rangers' Antonio Colak celebrates netting with a strike that proved instrumental in the Ibrox side completing a history-making Champions League rescue mission over Union Saint-Gilloise and suggested he prove no slouch in front of goal. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group) (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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Antonio Colak creeping up

Rangers’ summer arrival Antonio Colak earned a show of faith from his manager this week, van Bronckhorst resisting the clamour to turn to injury-returnee Alfredo Morelos for the club’s salvage job against Union. The Croatian striker responded, justifying his manager’s call with the goal that brought the tie back into the balance. Yet, it is fair to say the £2.5m buy from PAOK hasn’t exactly been a captivating presence in his early outings for his new employers.

The 28-year-old perhaps is one of those unglamorous types whose value to a club creeps up on watchers. He has now scored in back-to-back games, something he had only accomplished once before in the past 10 months. Indeed, but for a dubious offside call in the league opener at Livingston, he would have struck three times in four appearances. Colak is no Morelos - few possess the poise and predatory instincts of that personality performer - but equally no slouch.

Referee Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos the visitor to wilt

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It was a fair assessment from Union coach Karel Garaerts that his team weren’t “blown away” at Ibrox - the fate of a clutch of vanquished opponents in a year of special European nights at a special arena. A couple of truly madcap mistakes were the Belgians’ undoing. Yet that doesn’t mean the apparent capacity for causing visitors to wilt was absent on Tuesday evening. It was just that the afflicted on this occasion appeared to be Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos.

The official’s control of the encounter evaporated as it boiled up in the second period. Flashing his yellow card in increasingly erratic and frantic fashion, he lost the plot and went looking for it in all the wrong areas. Exemplified by booking, then un-booking, the already cautioned James Sands for a tackle on Dante Vanzeir that seemed perfectly timed and executed.

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