'We have to avoid it' - Giovanni van Bronckhorst issues Rangers warning as he looks to bury Dortmund agony from 1999
Stretching back to their success against an exceptional Wolves side in the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961, through memorable triumphs against Bayern Munich (1972), Juventus (1978), Leeds United (1992), Parma (1999) and to the defeat of Paris Saint Germain in a UEFA Cup third round tie in 2001, Ibrox folklore preserves a special place for teams who achieve those special moments.
If Giovanni van Bronckhorst can oversee Rangers’ passage to the last 16 of the Europa League at the expense of Borussia Dortmund on Thursday night, it would be an achievement worthy of taking its place on that exalted list of results.
Many Rangers supporters have already determined that last week’s stunning 4-2 win at the Westfalen Stadium in the first leg of the knockout round play-off tie deserves to be regarded as one of their club’s greatest ever European nights.
But van Bronckhorst is speaking from a position of experience when he continues to issue reminders that his team have only done half a job so far.
Back in 1999, van Bronckhorst was part of the Rangers side who took a 2-0 lead into the second leg of a UEFA Cup third round tie against Borussia Dortmund. The return fixture in Germany proved agonising, Dortmund forcing extra-time with a 90th minute goal from Fredi Bobic and going on to win a penalty shoot-out in which van Bronckhorst missed one of Rangers’ spot-kicks.
So while the Rangers manager is upbeat about the prospects of securing a place in Friday’s last 16 draw, he remains wary about the potential for the balance of the tie to swing in Dortmund’s favour.
“We played really well at home (in 1999) and had a difficult game away in Dortmund,” recalls van Bronckhorst. “Like now, they were a top side of the moment.
“Now, we need to do it the other way round. We won the away game with a two goal difference and we know we can be very strong at home.
“If we have the same intentions and determination as we had last week, then we can have a good performance and a great result.
“I believe we can pass this round, which is the most important thing. We had a great performance last week and we are all happy with the game we played.
“We also know it’s only halfway. We are going to face a very good team, a very strong team in Europe and we have to be ready to overcome them.
“We are in a good position to play the second game but I think our focus will be to play as strong as possible and try to win the game. That is our intention. It’s going to be a very exciting game and a game that you want to play, you want to coach.”
While Rangers will begin the second leg in a commanding position, van Bronckhorst is keen to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of dropping deeper and simply looking to defend their lead.
“You get in positions in moments in games where you have to (sit deep),” he said. “But I think what we did last week was, at the right times, we pressed them a little bit higher and tried to win the ball and be dangerous.
“But to begin the game and sit deep? I don’t think that’s in our system. We have to avoid it.”
While Dortmund’s form and results have fluctuated wildly at times this season, their 6-0 win against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday was a reminder of their potency.
“They played really well at the weekend, so I think their confidence is really good at the moment,” added van Bronckhorst.
“They’re also a team who knows what’s needed to perform. But we gave ourselves a good position in the first leg and we know their strengths and weaknesses and with the backing of our fans tomorrow, we can have another beautiful European night at Ibrox.
“We have to do everything we can to get through to the next round and to make sure we continue to progress.
“Last week we were at the top of our game and to proceed on Thursday we need the same performance.
“But it’s not an easy competition so we have to be prepared and we have to be ready.
“You also have to enjoy it because you are going to play against some very good opposition, especially when you come far in the competition. The quality you face will only get better.”
Van Bronckhorst is on the verge of the most significant moment yet since taking charge of Rangers in November and is relishing the challenges he faces.
“For me, it’s a big honour to be manager of this club, having had a history here as a player,” he said.
“I had a really good time here (as a player). But it’s different now because I’m the manager. I enjoy it. For me, it’s a job where I have to prepare my players, I have to make sure we are playing at the best level we can.
“Also, with the magnitude of this club, we want to win prizes. That’s what we all want. That’s my goal with this club and this team.
“The pressure is always there. I’ve felt pressure throughout my whole career, not only as a player but also as a coach.
“It will keep you sharp, it keeps you working on the development of the team. It’s also something I cherish, because it means you are the manager of a big club.
“So just give 100 per cent in the things we have to do and lead my players, lead my staff and make sure we are successful for this club.”
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