Mick Beale is a cosy appointment when Rangers need a ruthless rebuild | Rangers

Mick Beale will claim the lure of Rangers was simply too strong. An emotional bond created during time spent at the club as assistant to Steven Gerrard meant he was destined to return. Blah blah. He could reasonably point towards a wider culture in football. Beale is not the first and will not be the last to have weighty sentiment almost immediately contradicted by actions. It is just that, in this case, it is bordering on the preposterous.

“It was a real privilege to be asked to go to speak to them but I didn’t think it was the right moment because I entered into an agreement here,” said Beale when Wolves tried to coax him from Queens Park Rangers. “Integrity is a real big thing for me, and loyalty. You don’t give it to receive it back but I think if they’re the values you live by then at times when you’re put in a position then you have to be strong by them. I’ve been all in here and I’ve asked others to be all in so I can’t be the first to run away from the ship.” This was in late October. Late October 2022. He will begin December as the new manager of Rangers. A switch from QPR to one of British football’s most esteemed clubs is hardly shocking but the self-aggrandising fuss Beale created when knocking back Wolves means onlookers are entitled to snort with laughter.

At Ibrox, where the season has been dominated by domestic shortcomings and Champions League embarrassment, they will not care if Beale has affronted anybody in west London. It will also be brushed aside that Beale headed north to take in Rangers’ victory over Aberdeen – posing with punters in pubs before taking his place in the VIP seats – at a time when Giovanni van Bronckhorst was clearly under pressure. The duly sacked Van Bronckhorst is known to have been upset by Beale’s prominent appearance and no wonder. If Beale, no stranger to self-promotion and having spent three years working in this frenzied domain, did not understand his visit to Glasgow would turn heads, he is far less streetwise than he would ever portray himself. Had he known precisely what he was doing? Hmm. Van Bronckhorst presided over only another four Rangers games, with Beale the automatic candidate to replace him. Good Ship QPR has been deserted.

Those who have worked under Beale describe an outstanding, single-minded coach. A career path which includes stops at Chelsea, Liverpool and São Paulo is to be admired. Yet for Rangers, this has the distinct look of another cosy appointment. Van Bronckhorst was a popular former player who was, conveniently, out of work. Beale delivers the comfort blanket of having been alongside Gerrard for Rangers’ iconic 55th title in 2021. This proved an all-too-rare moment of recent domestic glory for a club with by far the second-biggest budget in Scotland. Rangers have typically wilted, the only difference in this campaign being that the capitulation has arrived early.

Beale pictured at his Rangers unveiling.
Beale pictured at his Rangers unveiling. Those who have worked under his describe him as an outstanding, single-minded coach. Photograph: Kirk O’Rourke/Shutterstock

There is no sense Beale was demanding Gerrard stay put at Rangers when Aston Villa came calling last year. Indeed, informed opinion suggested the management team were keen to free themselves from Ibrox. Gerrard claimed he had “completed” his “remit”. It is curious, then, that within such a short period of time Beale thinks it wise to work for the club again, not least when all pressure falls on his shoulders.

The coming days will see misty-eyed opinion over what Gerrard and Beale produced. That key championship, yes, and the regaining of status in Europe but an underwhelming return of one domestic trophy out of nine. Rangers and their acolytes never tire of telling the rest of us how much winning matters. Supporters regarded Gerrard’s football as predictable before and after the season where Celtic were comfortably swept aside. His departure felt mutually useful.

What Rangers need is a manager who can ruthlessly rebuild a fragile squad. Given Beale was in charge of QPR – his first main role – for little over 20 games, nobody truly knows whether that is within his capabilities. If it is not, Celtic’s run as Scotland’s dominant force for a decade will only be extended.

A glance through Rangers’ personnel dictates what must be done. Allan McGregor, Steven Davis and Scott Arfield are approaching the end of their careers. Glen Kamara will surely move abroad in January if a suitable offer is made. Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent, once key assets, appear to be winding down contracts. Borna Barisic’s defensive weakness – something of a problem for a full-back – is the reason hype around him was always strange. Malik Tillman and James Sands have done little to suggest they are worth the reasonable fees required to turn loans into permanent moves. Filip Helander and Kemar Roofe have appearance records which make Lord Lucan look omnipresent. Perhaps it is unfair to focus on the 18-year-old Leon King, promoted to the first team due to injuries, but he has done nothing to suggest he will be a long-term option at centre-back. Which is a pity; Rangers have done precious little else to adequately promote their own talent. James Tavernier is on such a lucrative contract that it may be impossible to shift him but Rangers should move on from a captain who has been involved in recurring domestic failure.

The positive for Beale and Rangers is that this muddle creates opportunity, should the 42-year-old be willing or able to grasp it. Rangers need root-and-branch change, such is the systematic failure of their football department. A run to last season’s Europa League final at least implied the team have talent but at home, where it counts, they are feeble.

Celtic invited risk when plucking Ange Postecoglou from Yokohama Marinos but he was an experienced manager who had sampled success at domestic and international level. Beale’s body of work includes five matches without a win at QPR; a wholly relevant statistic given he was only hired in June.

Beale is due credit for breaking the old football adage and “going back”. Presumably he thinks he can surpass what Gerrard achieved. What Beale and Rangers have in common is a tendency to talk the talk; together they have to walk the walk or this will be a mutually harmful reacquaintance.

Mick Beale leaves QPR to make Rangers return as new head coach | Rangers

Rangers have announced the appointment of Mick Beale as their new manager.

The 42-year-old, who was previously assistant to Steven Gerrard at Ibrox, has left his role as QPR boss to take over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was sacked last week.

Upon confirming Beale’s appointment on a contract until the summer of 2026, Rangers declared him as “undoubtedly one of the most sought-after young managers in British football”.

“It is fantastic to be back and to see everybody this morning, there are some new faces but some people that I know really well so it is great to see everyone,” Beale said. “I am hugely proud, it is a wonderful, wonderful football club, it is an institution. For everyone that works here it is a huge privilege, but to be the manager of this football club, that is extremely special. Some wonderful people have sat in this chair prior to me, and I am hugely proud to be the person sat here now.”

Beale only became a manager in summer 2022 after QPR lured him from Gerrard’s backroom team at Aston Villa in June. He made a swift impact at Loftus Road as he led the club to top spot in the Championship a little over a month ago before they failed to win any of their last five matches before the World Cup break.

The Londoner’s impressive start to management in west London drew the attention of Wolves in October. He turned down a move to Molineux, but has been unable to resist the opportunity to return to Scotland.

QPR’s director of football, Les Ferdinand, admitted it was “a blow” to lose Beale. “Naturally we are hugely disappointed to lose Mick,” he told the club’s website. “Our extensive research when we were looking for a new head coach highlighted him as being very much aligned with the direction we are moving in as a football club.

“The start to the season we have made, coupled with very attractive football being played, gave us cause for optimism as we looked to build on the previous three seasons. That optimism remains but there is no doubt it is a blow to lose Mick so soon into his tenure.”

First-team coaches Neil Banfield, Damian Matthew and Harry Watling have also left QPR to join Beale at Rangers. B team manager Paul Hall will take over first-team duties at Loftus Road while the club look to identify a new head coach.

Beale has a little over three weeks to prepare his team for his first game at home to Hibernian on 15 December. The Ibrox side are currently nine points adrift of city rivals Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership and are out of Europe after losing all six of their Champions League group matches.

Rangers sack Giovanni van Bronckhorst after lacklustre start to season | Rangers

Rangers have sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst after a disappointing start to the season which has left them a distant second to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership and embarrassed in the Champions League.

The Ibrox club made unwanted history in Europe with six defeats from six in the group stage, finishing rock bottom of Group A with a goal difference of -20. That represented a new low for a Champions League side, beating Dinamo Zagreb’s winless 2011-12 campaign which ended in six losses and a goal difference of -19.

Rangers have also struggled on the domestic front, with a recent defeat to St Johnstone and draws against St Mirren and Livingston leaving them nine points behind rivals Celtic at the top of the table. They lost 4-0 at Celtic Park in September, compounding their misery.

A statement announcing Van Bronckhorst’s departure read: “Rangers Football Club confirms today it has parted company with manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The board would like to put on record sincere thanks to Gio for all his efforts since his appointment as manager.

“Arriving at the club just over a year ago, Gio led the club to a fifth European final and won the Scottish Cup last May. He also led the team to the club’s first Champions League qualification in 12 years.

“Unfortunately, results and performances over recent months haven’t met expectations and the decision was made today by the board to terminate the contract of the manager. The search for the new manager is now underway.”

Douglas Park, Rangers’ chairman, added: “I want to thank Gio for the hard work he has put in over the last 12 months and, especially, the achievements of taking the club to the Europa League final and winning the Scottish Cup last season.

“Unfortunately, recent results have not met our nor Gio’s expectations, and we have taken this difficult decision today. Everyone at Rangers wishes Gio every success in the future.”

James Tavernier’s late penalty rescues point for Rangers against St Mirren | Scottish Premiership

Giovanni van Bronckhorst found himself again with his Rangers future in sharp focus after a 1-1 draw with St Mirren saw more dropped points in the Premiership title race.

The 1-0 midweek home win over Hearts appeared to give the under-fire Rangers boss some respite but it was back to square one in Paisley.

Returning Saints striker Jonah Ayunga drove the home side into the lead two minutes after the restart before Rangers skipper James Tavernier levelled with a penalty with six minutes of normal time remaining, after referee Kevin Clancy had originally booked Ryan Kent for diving before a VAR check.

Treatment for injury to Rangers defender Leon King explained much of the nine minutes added on but the visitors could not find a winner and they find themselves six points behind Celtic who play Ross County later in the day.

Top-flight football in Scotland takes a break for the World Cup and who knows what will happen in the Ibrox boardroom during that period but the Dutchman appears to be on borrowed time.

Van Bronckhorst had to contend with more injury problems for the lunchtime kick-off. With top scorer Antonio Colak out with a muscle problem, Alfredo Morelos made his first league start this season.

Midfielder Glen Kamara replaced the injured Ben Davies with James Sands moving back to central defence, while Scott Wright was in for Rabbi Matondo.

For St Mirren, Ayunga replaced Alex Greive and he paired up with Curtis Main to give the Rangers centre-back pairing of Sands and 18-year-old King a physical test. And after a lone piper played a tribute for Remembrance Day before kick-off, it became evident that battle would be key to the outcome.

Jonah Ayunga (second right) scores St Mirren’s goal against Rangers
Jonah Ayunga opens the scoring for St Mirren two minutes into the second half. Photograph: Jeff Holmes/PA

However, it was Rangers who created the first clear-cut chance in the seventh minute. Midfielder Malik Tillman slipped the ball between the legs of Saints defender Marcus Fraser but with only keeper Trevor Carson to beat, he dragged his shot wide of the target.

Then Carson blocked Wright’s close-range header at the back post from a Borna Barisic cross. Wright drove wide after a swift counter-attack and as Saints responded, Greg Kiltie’s delivery across the face of the Light Blues’ box found no takers before Buddies defender Declan Gallagher headed a corner wide.

Scott Arfield replaced Kamara for the second half which began, somewhat bizarrely, with Morelos being immediately booked by referee Clancy for barging into Charles Dunne.

Stephen Robinson’s battling side then took the lead. Following a long Gallagher throw-in and a flick-on by Main, keeper Allan McGregor parried Ayunga’s first effort from close range but as King hesitated, the St Mirren attacker fired into the net. Suddenly Rangers and their travelling fans were gripped by anxiety.

There was more trouble for Rangers when King, after a long period of treatment for concussion after a clash with Main, was taken from the field on a stretcher and replaced by Ryan Jack, with John Lundstram moving back to central defence.

The Govan side fought back but now the attacks were underpinned by desperation. As play stretched, Ayunga came close with a long-range effort before Kent was booked by referee Clancy for diving inside the box after a challenge by Fraser. However, after a VAR check, a penalty was awarded and the yellow rescinded with Tavernier slamming the ball past Carson to level.

There were nine minutes added on at the end during which Carson saved a drive from Kent and a header from Jack before again Rangers ran out of time, with their title hopes further damaged.

Rangers slump to defeat at St Johnstone as pressure mounts on Van Bronckhorst | Scottish Premiership

Pressure piled on the Rangers manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, after a shock 2-1 defeat by St Johnstone left them seven points behind Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Rangers dominated the first half at McDiarmid Park but found themselves behind in the 41st minute, when 24-year-old wing-back James Brown thundered in a stunning drive from 25 yards for his first senior goal.

The former Rangers striker Nicky Clark grabbed a second in the 62nd minute, and while James Tavernier reduced the deficit in the 73rd minute, the visitors could not find an equaliser. Seething away fans vented their frustration at the final whistle after Rangers’ first defeat in Perth for 12 years.

There had seemed little prospect of an upset despite an ongoing injury crisis at Ibrox. Van Bronckhorst was glad to welcome back centre-back Ben Davies from a groin complaint while midfielder John Lundstram was back again after a one-game ban.

The Saints manager, Callum Davidson, revealed a sickness bug had affected his players, with captain Liam Gordon missing. Elliott Parish took over in goal from the injured Remi Matthews, with Ross Sinclair on the bench after being recalled from his loan spell at Montrose.

Rangers started the game strongly and in the sixth minute Parish had to save Malik Tillman’s effort from a tight angle following Tavernier’s cross. Parish then dived low to his left to push a decent Lundstram drive round the post for a corner. In the 11th minute, Antonio Colak was sent through on goal by Tillman but veteran defender Andrew Considine ensured the Croatia striker did not get a shot on goal.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst watches on at McDiarmid Park.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst watches on at McDiarmid Park. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

As the siege on the St Johnstone goal continued, Rangers winger Fashion Sakala leapt above defender Adam Montgomery to head a Borna Barisic corner off the crossbar. With half-time approaching, the home side took the lead after a mix up between Lundstram and Sakala gave possession away.

Stevie May’s shot from the edge of the box was blocked out to Brown, who thundered a drive high past Allan McGregor for a landmark goal. It was the third successive league game in which Rangers had conceded first, and the hosts doubled their lead just past the hour mark after Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield had come on for Rangers.

May beat 18-year-old defender Leon King on the byline and crossed for Clark, who got in front of Barisic at the near post to flick the ball past McGregor. The travelling fans behind the goal immediately turned their ire on van Bronckhorst, while Lundstram sent a left-footed shot from the edge of the box off the outside of post.

Tavernier got Rangers back in the game with a shot from the edge of the box after Considine headed a corner away. The visitors piled on the pressure, Lundstram hitting the bar from 25 yards out before Parish saved a late Tavernier header. Rangers kept pushing but ran out of time – so too, perhaps, has Van Bronckhorst.

Rangers’ defeat by Ajax sets new low and seals Champions League misery | Champions League

Ajax made sure of a place in the Europa League after beating Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox on Tuesday to heap further Champions League misery on the Scottish club.

Ajax finished third in Group A, behind Napoli and Liverpool, and will compete in the Europa League knockout round playoffs as Rangers finished bottom after losing all six group games – the first Scottish side to suffer the fate – and returned the worst figures in the three decades of Champions League group competition.

Steven Berghuis put Ajax ahead with a miscued effort in the fourth minute after being teed up by Mohammed Kudus, who then added a second with a deflected shot in the 29th minute.

Rangers captain James Tavernier pulled one back from the penalty spot four minutes from time, for only their second goal of the group stage, but Ajax restored their two-goal advantage through teenage substitute Francisco Conceição two minutes after.

Rangers, who needed to win by five goals to move above Ajax and take the Europa League berth, were jeered off at half-time.

They conceded 22 goals in their six group games for a goal difference of minus 20, which beats the previous worst group return by Dinamo Zagreb in the 2011-12 campaign when they lost all six games and finished with a goal difference of minus 19.

Czech club Viktoria Plzen also lost all six games this season with a minus 19 goal difference after losing 4-2 at home to Barcelona on Tuesday.

Rangers in danger of making unwanted Champions League history | Rangers

“I’m looking forward to all the games,” said the Rangers manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, after learning of their Champions League fate. “I am happy with the draw because we’re going to play some great games against tough opponents.”

Two and a half months later, Rangers are close to being the worst group-stage team in the competition’s history. Home and away defeats against Liverpool and Napoli, in addition to an opening-game thrashing at Ajax, leave Rangers pointless and with a -18 goal difference before the return fixture on Tuesday against the Dutch side.

The only team to have fared worse are Dinamo Zagreb, who in the 2011-12 season finished with no points and a -19 goal difference. Also in contention for their unwanted title are Viktoria Plzen, whose reward for battling through qualifying rounds was to face three of the continent’s most historic clubs: Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Internazionale and their collective 14 European Cups.

It has left the Czech team awaiting the Grim Reaper to end the misery when they are at home to Barcelona on Tuesday. Like Rangers, they are yet to muster even a draw but they are one better off in the goal difference column, despite conceding 20 times in five games.

Every Rangers and Plzen player will be desperate to avoid being associated with an underwhelming, record-breaking accomplishment. There is, however, no great shame in teams from Scotland and the Czech Republic succumbing to richer continental neighbours. Plzen’s manager, Michal Bilek, said: “I’ve talked with the guys about how incredible it feels to be in a group like this.”

Quick Guide

What is up for grabs in the Champions League?


Through to the last 16 as group winners
Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City.

Also through Benfica, Club Brugge, Borussia Dortmund, Internazionale, Liverpool, Napoli, Paris Saint-Germain, Porto, Real Madrid.

Can still reach the last 16
Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, Marseille, Milan, RB Salzburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon, Tottenham.

Confirmed in Europa League
Barcelona, Sevilla.

Cannot reach the last 16 but can get into Europa League
Ajax, Atlético Madrid, Dinamo Zagreb, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Maccabi Haifa, Rangers.

Out of Europe
Celtic, Copenhagen, Viktoria Plzen.

Group A
Liverpool and Napoli have reached the last 16. Liverpool must beat Napoli by four goals or more to finish top.
Ajax or Rangers will go into the Europa League, with Rangers needing to beat Ajax by five goals or more to finish third. 

Group B
Porto will finish second to Club Brugge unless they achieve a better result at home against Atlético Madrid than Brugge manage at Bayer Leverkusen. Atlético will qualify for the Europa League if they win, both games are drawn or Leverkusen lose. 

Group C
Nothing at stake. Bayern have won the group, Inter will finish second, Barcelona third and Plzen are out. 

Group D
Tottenham will reach the last 16 if they avoid defeat at Marseille. If they lose they will go into the Europa League. Sporting will go into the last 16 if they avoid defeat at home against Eintracht Frankfurt, who must win to finish in the top two. Marseille must win to reach the last 16. 

Group E
Chelsea have won the group. Milan will join them in the last 16 if they avoid defeat at home against Salzburg. If they lose they will go into the Europa League. Salzburg will progress to the last 16 if they win and will finish fourth if they lose and Dinamo Zagreb win at Chelsea. 

Group F
Real Madrid are through and will win the group if they win at home against Celtic or Leipzig do not win away to Shakhtar Donetsk. Leipzig will reach the last 16 if they avoid defeat. 

Group G
Nothing at stake. Manchester City have won the group, Borussia Dortmund will finish second, Sevilla third and Copenhagen are out.

Group H PSG and Benfica are through, and either Juventus or Maccabi Haifa will finish third. With PSG above Benfica on goal difference and Haifa below Juventus on goal difference, the final placings could come down to goal difference. It’s Juventus v PSG and Haifa v Benfica.

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Many of those in either squad could never have imagined playing at the Camp Nou, Anfield or San Siro. In many ways, they did not stand a chance of progressing.

Europe is supposed to be a reward for the hard work put in the previous season, but it could prove the undoing of Van Bronckhorst. He is under pressure after his team slipped behind Celtic in the Scottish Premiership and failed to soften the blow with spirited displays in the Champions League. The 7-1 defeat to Liverpool was greeted with boos.

Scott Arfield scores for Rangers against Liverpool in the Chamions League
Scott Arfield scores against Liverpool, Rangers’ only goal in their Champions league campaign. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Jürgen Klopp’s side were greeted by a ferocious Ibrox atmosphere that became even more raucous when Scott Arfield gave Rangers the lead with their solitary goal in the competition so far. But when Liverpool can call on Mohamed Salah to come off the bench and score a six‑minute hat-trick, it is a sign of the difficulties faced by a side who spent the summer shopping for bargains in the hope of creating a squad capable of competing at the highest level. Rangers lost Calvin Bassey for £17m and replaced him with someone who cost a fifth of that.

Dinamo’s miserable group stage came against Real Madrid, Lyon and Ajax. They started with a 1-0 defeat against a Madrid side containing Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso, to name but a few among others. Such a result might have provided a platform for the group minnows to build on but they failed to score in the first four games and lost the final two 6-2 and 7-1.

Within the Dinamo ranks were future World Cup finalists Sime Vrsaljko and Domagoj Vida, and Mateo Kovacic, who was on the bench for that final but has won the Champions League four times. Rangers and Plzen players can take heart that a pathway exists to better things and this six-game spell will not define their careers.

Rangers are unlikely to make the Europa League given that they must beat Ajax by five goals to finish third. It was a competition that gave players and fans joy last season, Rangers knocking out Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig before losing on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. PSV were dispatched in August’s Champions League playoff and they beat the Premier League leaders, Arsenal, last week but the step up to the top table has proved too far for Rangers.

Their supporters will have hoped the club would give bloody noses to their more esteemed rivals. Rangers have been far too passive, hindered by their defensive nature in Europe, trying to contain teams even though they have little chance of doing so. Instead of getting in opponents’ faces and trying to put them off their gameplan, they have left questions what might have been if they had utilised a more aggressive style.

Rangers overwhelm Aberdeen to ease pressure on Van Bronckhorst | Scottish Premiership

Rangers produced a timely win for their under-fire manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst with a commanding 4-1 comeback over Aberdeen at Ibrox.

Connor Barron drove the visitors ahead in the 21st minute but the Light Blues responded with goals before the break from returning striker Antonio Colak and midfielder John Lundstram. Skipper James Tavernier headed in a third in the 51st minute before hitting the post with a penalty just before the hour mark with substitute Alfredo Morelos adding a late fourth for a convincing victory.

Van Bronckhorst went into the game under increasing scrutiny after his side slipped four points behind Premiership leaders Celtic last weekend and being booed at the end of a second home game running when they drew 1-1 with Livingston. A demoralising Champions League campaign had continued on Wednesday night with a 3-0 defeat by Napoli but Rangers demonstrated their domestic desire and this time there were cheers at the final whistle. It was quite an afternoon in Govan.

Quick Guide

Scottish roundup-Boyle injury a worry for Hibs and Australia


-Martin Boyle, Myko Kukharevych and Ewan Henderson scored as Hibernian moved back up to third place in the cinch Premiership with a comfortable 3-0 victory over St Mirren. Boyle’s penalty earned the home side the lead going into the half-time break with VAR again playing its part. Kukharevych scored the second goal after 63 minutes. A shot from substitute Elias Melkersen ricocheted into Henderson’s step just inside the penalty area and Henderson placed a cool finish high into the net for the third goal. 

The Australian Boyle, though, was forced off with a knee injury in the second half, a concern for Hibs and for his country with the World Cup approaching. 

Ash Taylor’s fourth-minute own goal from a Stevie May shot allowed St Johnstone a narrow 1-0 win over Kilmarnock at McDiarmid Park.It appeared that Kilmarnock had equalised in the second half, but Liam Donnelly’s goal was ruled out by referee Craig Napier as the Saints held on for consecutive Premiership victories for the first time this season to move up to seventh.

Tony Watt was sent off following a VAR decision as Motherwell beat Dundee United 1-0 at Tannadice. Sondre Solholm broke the deadlock after his 22nd-minutes when his header was palmed over the line by keeper Mark Birighitti. The former Motherwell forward Watt was sent off five minutes before half-time following a challenge on Sean Goss in the centre circle.

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The unchanged visitors, who arrived third in the league, pressed from the first whistle but Rangers played their way through with purpose with attacker Fashion Sakala, back in the side along with Colak, knocking a Ryan Kent cross over the bar.

There was a groan around Ibrox in the sixth minute when Rangers left-back Ridvan Yilmaz went to ground clutching his hamstring after blocking a cross on the byline and he was replaced by Borna Barisic with the fans noting another addition to the club’s lengthy injury list.

In the 20th minute Colak’s shot from distance drew a decent save from Aberdeen goalkeeper Kelle Roos but then came the Dons stunner. Luis Lopes turned young defender Leon King three times inside the box and the visitors claimed for a penalty when Tavernier put in a challenge but Barron wasted no time in firing the loose ball past keeper Allan McGregor.

The home fans urged their side forward in response and former Rangers player Ross McCrorie cleared an attack off the line but just as the frustrations begin to build, Rangers equalised. Malik Tillman took a pass from Lundstram and squared for the prolific Colak to sweep his shot low past Roos from 16 yards for his 14th goal of the season.

Antonio Colak celebrates scoring for Rangers.
Antonio Colak celebrates scoring for Rangers. Photograph: Steve Welsh/PA

Aberdeen came under pressure. Roos blocked a shot from Sakala after Colak had split open the Dons defence and amid a frenetic game there was also an ignored Rangers penalty claim when the ball appeared to strike the hand of Liam Scales.

But with seconds remaining of the first half, a cleared Barisic free-kick fell to Tavernier whose drive from the edge of the box was parried by Roos. Rangers defender Ben Davies knocked the ball back from a tight angle for Lundstram to hammer high into the net.

Davies was replaced by midfielder Scott Arfield for the start of the second half with James Sands moving back to defence. The match continued at a breathless pace and the home side increased their lead when Tavernier climbed above Aberdeen defender Jack MacKenzie at the back post to head in a Barisic cross.

There was a VAR check in the 57th minute after the ball appeared to hit the hands of Jayden Richardson inside the box and after checking his monitor referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot with Tavernier striking the post with his effort.

Rangers kept up the pressure and in the 73rd minute Arfield’s side-footed shot was cleared off the line by Leighton Clarkson. Then Morelos, who replaced Colak, had the ball in the net but was ruled offside after a VAR check and after tapping in from a Sakala cross in the 86th minute, after a longer VAR check, this time the goal stood.

Giovanni Simeone fires in early double as Napoli swat aside dismal Rangers | Champions League

Rangers’ sobering Champions League campaign continued on its downward trajectory with a 3-0 defeat against Napoli in the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. A 7-1 defeat by Liverpool at Ibrox in their last Group A outing had shocked the Light Blues and their fans and it looked ominous when striker Giovanni Simeone scored twice in the first 16 minutes for the dominant home side.

The second half was more encouraging for the visitors but the defender Leo Østigård headed in a third from a corner in the 80th minute to seal the win and leave the Serie A leaders with five wins out of five in the group. By contrast, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side have lost all five games, conceding 19 goals and scoring one, and he will now find himself under more pressure.

Last season’s Europa League finalists are out of Europe altogether, barring an unlikely thrashing of Ajax in the final game at Ibrox next week. A real sense of trepidation surrounded Rangers for their trip to Naples to play an in-form team who won 3-0 at Ibrox, though the home side had put up a good fight until James Sands was sent off.

It was another reshuffled Rangers lineup with Van Bronckhorst giving a first Champions League start to the left-back Ridvan Yilmaz, while Sands, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Wright came back in. The Napoli manager, Luciano Spalletti, made six changes as he rested some key players including Hirving Lozano, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen.

However, the Italian club – unbeaten in all 15 previous games this season and on a run of 11 successive wins – were still packed with quality including the captain, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, and the South Korea defender Kim Min-jae, with the Norwegian Østigård making his debut in defence. Van Bronckhorst had asked for a display of character but that was in question as they soon fell 2-0 behind.

There were just 11 minutes gone when Di Lorenzo sent the striker Simeone down the right flank, and despite the attention of the defender Leon King he fired the ball low across the keeper Allan McGregor and in at the far post. Four minutes later, Simeone headed in a cross from Mario Rui with the defenders King and Ben Davies helpless either side. Rangers looked like they would crumble further.

There was a let-off for the ragged visitors in the 22nd minute when Tanguy Ndombele cracked the crossbar with a drive from distance and then, in the 38th minute, McGregor saved a close-range header from Giacomo Raspadori as Napoli stepped up the pressure again. It was all too comfortable for Napoli, although the Rangers midfielder Malik Tillman had a shot blocked in a rare foray into the opposition box before Morelos’s deflected strike on a counterattack was saved by the home goalkeeper Alex Meret.

Fashion Sakala replaced Wright for the second half and Rangers reverted to a back five but soon Simeone had another chance, this time lobbing McGregor from the edge of the box, but it bounced over the bar. The Rangers defence was being easily opened up.

McGregor blocked an angled drive from Simeone with his foot before Rangers enjoyed a spell of positive possession around the hour and a Morelos volley was blocked by Rui. Next the Colombia striker missed the ball altogether from just five yards out from a Yilmaz cross.

In between those two chances a loose pass from the Rangers captain James Tavernier gave Raspadori a chance but he bent his shot wide of the far post. In the 79th minute McGregor saved an effort from Rui and from the resultant corner from Raspadori, Østigård rose to power in a header and add gloss to a convincing home win.

Celtic and Rangers losing time to challenge also-ran status in Europe | Football

It does not take much to irritate Ange Postecoglou. Even in these times of domestic harmony at Celtic, the manager rails against the tiniest of perceived slights. One wonders about Postecoglou’s demeanour were the going genuinely tough.

Nonetheless, in respect of typical European analysis, Postecoglou has a point. He objects to Celtic being placed alongside other Scottish clubs when it comes to a dreadful Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League season thus far. Postecoglou is correct to highlight cliche. Celtic have been considerably more competitive than their compatriots.

For those with an overarching interest in the Scottish game – and how it sits in broader context – these have been miserable times. Celtic begin this Champions League week with a single point from four matches. Rangers’ record is the worst in the competition, owing to a record of four defeats out of four and a goal difference of minus 15. Hearts are averaging three goals conceded a game in the Conference League. Motherwell were bundled out of Europe by Sligo Rovers. Dundee United seemed giddy at beating Alkmaar 1-0 in a Conference League qualifier and duly lost by seven in the Netherlands.

Those in high office celebrated the potential for Scottish teams to feature in Europe in such significant number, but what followed looks embarrassing. An improved co-efficient rating, recently a source of pride, has triggered carnage.

Bruges top their Champions League group. Dynamo Zagreb have collected four points and Maccabi Haifa sit on three. Copenhagen were obdurate enough to hold Manchester City.

The Old Firm have huge costs – Celtic’s was last reported at £90m – and supporter bases that leave many to believe they should be doing better. Under Steve Clarke, Scotland’s national team has found a way to punch at least equal to its weight. A scratch below the surface offers mitigating circumstance in the case of Celtic. Real Madrid were rocked for a half in Glasgow, with the width of the woodwork preventing Callum McGregor from handing the Scottish champions a lead they deserved.

But ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ counts for little at this level and in subsequent matches against Shakhtar Donestk and RB Leipzig Celtic’s wastefulness in front of goal denied them more than any sense they were out of their depth.

It is to Postecoglou’s credit that he appears to embrace the adversity. The manager wants Celtic to learn and benefit from playing in the Champions League, rather than throwing hands in the air and bemoaning an inability to joust with Europe’s best. The proof will be in that particular pudding but Postecoglou’s attitude is admirable.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring in their 7-1 hammering of Rangers at Ibrox.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring in their 7-1 hammering of Rangers at Ibrox. Photograph: Karl W Newton/SPP/Shutterstock

Rangers’ scenario is entirely different. It is also curious, given the run to the Europa League final last season that showed Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team cared little for reputation. Maulings by Liverpool, Ajax and Napoli have highlighted shortcomings, but they have been visible at home, too.

Van Bronckhorst already looks to be sliding towards an exit from Ibrox, with supporters unconvinced by a dull and currently ineffectual brand of football. Rangers are a club devoid of on- and off-field confidence and while the blame for that can not be solely placed at the door of the manager he will inevitably pay the price.

Unlike Postecoglou, Van Bronckhorst has bemoaned the chasm between his players and their Champions League opponents. Even subliminally, that message must resonate in the dressing room.

It is undeniable Celtic and Rangers are far too obsessed with the pursuit of each other. There is precious little wider thought. Celtic missed a glorious opportunity to establish themselves as a credible European force when Rangers were consigned to the nether regions of the Scottish league. Yet the balance of power within European football, which sits squarely with the major leagues, arguably means Scottish sides are for ever destined to take on also-ran status. Even at their modern-day best, Celtic and Rangers are Europa League clubs stuck in the vortex of chasing Champions League paydays.

The fates of Motherwell, Dundee United and Hearts mean fans of other Scottish outfits can hardly laugh at that. A blunt reality may be that Scottish teams are not particularly good.

Celtic will hope to add a more reasonable complexion to their Champions League campaign by beating Shakhtar on Tuesday. Rangers, meanwhile, fear another long night against a rampant Napoli on Wednesday. Hearts should only be the narrow favourites to defeat Latvian opposition on Thursday.

It is quite the grim collective picture. If not, however, one that depicts precise circumstance.