Rangers let their two goal lead vanish in injury time to ten man Benfica last night and, while that’s disappointing, let’s have some perspective…
It’s funny how fast the tables can turn in football. There’s so many teams trying to one-up each other, with unlimited cash piles of money seemingly sitting around at their disposal to do so. The Premier League is an absolute sight to behold, one of potentially six teams could win it in any given year (ok, maybe I’m being a bit generous to Arsenal here) but out of absolutely nowhere comes a Leicester City or the like too. From absolute obscurity to the top of the pile.
Sometimes it feels a bit the same with Rangers. We’ve won 55 titles and yet somehow still manage to make an underdog of ourselves, at least we did. Celtic fans have nary been so cocky as before this season, on track for 10 in a row, signing Prem star Shane Duffy, seemingly won it before it’s even happened. Then the season started and Duffy has gone down like a lead balloon and the Hoops have been objectively woeful.
That’s really the magic of the game though and, believe me, I’d say the same were the shoe on the other foot. So it is we come to a game like last night’s against Benfica. Benfica! I still remember watching them play live at Windsor Park as a kid and the great Eusebio was in their directors box. One of the greatest, most prolific teams, and players, in all of football.
If you’d offered me a 3-3 draw before the game, I’d have been fine with it. Yet here we are, still feeling like a draw is a loss, why? Well for starters, 4 of those 6 goals were scored by Rangers, but that’s merely a footnote. The Light Blues were, arguably, the better side there even before Benfica dropped to 10 men. 60% possession and over double the chances on goal, passes, corners and just about every metric that matters. This was Rangers game to not win.
Lapses of judgement, and a bit of a shocker from Helander, led to a disappointing drop of Europa League points punctuated by an injury time equaliser. Disappointing would be a bit of an understatement.
Nonetheless, two things definitely helped temper reactions. First, aforementioned Glasgow team who plays in Green got thumped again, this time by Sparta Prague to the tune of 1-4. Second, you’d be surprised just how much Rangers underdog status, self-inflicted or otherwise, came back before the game – most casual observers that I noticed expected a draw at best, or even a loss.
It was Steven Gerrard’s men over-performing that led to the disappointment, this was a game we could have, and should have, won. Hasn’t that just been the story of the season? Rangers are literally unbeaten, no one has taken our scalp or even looked like they would. Benfica threatened at the start of the game and at it’s conclusion, but 90% of the game was dictated by the Gers.
Now here’s the rub – you can’t win them all. The better team can play better until the cows come home, but football doesn’t always reward that effort. Form is important, but each game is, in many respects, it’s own bubble in which performances can vary wildly and situations and circumstances can change the game plan. A team on poor form is guaranteed to be equally poor in the next match, well, Celtic perhaps excepted.
It comes with the territory, a result like that. This is only evidence of just how far we’ve come and just how good we are. Keep the chin up, Bears, there’s great things ahead and this match was barely a bump in the road. The tables can indeed turn fast in football, but these ones show no sign of flipping any time soon. We march on to the 55 and European glory and last night was just one point closer to history.