Malik Tillman caps rousing Rangers comeback against Union Saint-Gilloise


Rangers are one step away from the Champions League and what they will not unreasonably regard as the completion of a redemption story following their financial implosion of 2012. Union Saint-Gilloise entered this second leg two goals to the good. They left Ibrox dizzy. Rangers progressed to the playoff round with swagger. The prospect of both halves of the Old Firm playing Champions League group stage football for the first time since 2007-08 remains a live one. PSV Eindhoven lie between Rangers and their holy grail.

“The pressure was on us,” said the Rangers manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst. “I am so proud of my players. They played with passion, fire and desire. It was an amazing night for all of us.”

Last week’s showing in Belgium had been widely depicted as Rangers’ poorest since Van Bronckhorst was appointed last November. Under Van Bronckhorst and his immediate predecessor, Steven Gerrard, Rangers have been formidable against foreign opposition. Indeed, they were Europa League finalists in May.

Rangers opened the second leg in a manner suggesting they had a point to prove. Antonio Colak headed narrowly over from a James Tavernier free-kick. Yet in the first quarter of the game, Rangers had failed to mark their dominance with the opener. As Siebe Van der Heyden flicked a free header wide of the home goal, murmurs of concern were apparent from the packed Ibrox stands. USG, who hardly look a side capable of troubling the cream of Europe, were holding firm. Colak came close to easing frustrations. From a menacing Tom Lawrence free-kick, the Croatian drew an acrobatic Anthony Moris save with a glancing header.

Colak’s two chances, though, were the sum of Rangers’ first-half efforts before they were offered the perfect opportunity from 12 yards. Van der Heyden was the offender, with handball after Borna Barisic had floated a cross into the USG penalty area. Van der Heyden completely missed his attempt at a header. Tavernier did what Tavernier does in such situations, to afford Rangers crucial momentum at the interval.

Brief – but only that – worry for Rangers did follow. James Sands looked to be heading for an early bath after the referee showed him a second yellow card following a challenge on Dante Vanzeir. Following consultation with one of his assistants, the Greek official, Anastasios Sidiropoulos, reversed his decision. Sands survived. So too did the Rangers goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, who had placed Sands in peril with a short pass.

This moment of drama was soon forgotten. Moris was at fault after failing to clear a looping cross from Barisic that should really have posed no danger. As Moris swung and missed, Malik Tillman chose the perfect point to nod in his first Rangers goal. A three-goal lead for Van Bronckhorst’s men was entirely merited on the balance of play.

Alfredo Morelos, working his way back from long-term injury, entered the fray as Rangers kept their foot on the accelerator. Rangers did not notch a fourth but they also did not need one. USG’s frustrations were summed up by Lazare Amani, whose stoppage-time show of dissent earned the Ivorian a second booking. Verbal volleys were all the Belgians had left.

Source: The Guardian