Rangers didn’t go into the Real Betis fixture in a good place. The hangover from the PSV battering in Eindhoven and Celtic defeat were still bubbling away in the background. A comfortable victory over a poor St Johnstone side did little to dispel the doubters over Michael Beale‘s ability to succeed in the job.
But there seems to be an aura around Ibrox on Thursday nights in the Europa League. Again, out of nowhere, they beat the La Liga side and quite frankly, were pretty comfortable. It was Rangers’ first win over a Spanish side since Osasuna in 1985 and that’s a feat in itself when you consider how strong La Liga is.
Moving onto the game, it was a test for Michael Beale: could he keep things simple? A win a big match as manager of Rangers? I think that was the launchpad for the win, the simplicity of it.
The selection was made simpler due to the injuries; the 4-2-3-1 shape was simple. It suited the players Beale had available and the game plan was spot on too. The ball over the top for Matondo on the side of Bellerin was on all evening and when Rangers got over the first 35 minutes, Lundstram and Cifuentes started to take control of the game, completely nullifying the magnificent Isco, so much so he was replaced.
Abdallah Sima‘s scrambled effort in the 67th minute gave the Light Blues the 1-0 victory this had come after Tom Lawrence had hit the outside of the post and Borna Barisic had smacked the top of the bar with a free-kick. It was a deserved victory for a Rangers team who for the first time this season looked organised and and showed a good level of intensity on both sides of the ball.
The aforementioned Isco, ex-Real Madrid and 38 times capped for the Spanish national side felt the home side were lucky. He said: “Luck was on Rangers’ side. We had plenty of chances in what was a tight game. They scored a fortunate goal too.”
However, the stats paint a very different picture from Isco’s opinion.
Real Betis 53%
Expected goals (xG)
Real Betis 0.84
Real Betis 2
Big chances missed
Real Betis 2
Rangers 292 (76%)
Real Betis 345 (80%)
Real Betis 9
Real Betis 2
Real Betis 7
It’s clear Beale’s team were the better side and Isco is participating in some sour grapes.
So what next for this Rangers side? Four home games domestically are on the horizon – they are all very winnable. But will this result against this calibre of side be enough for this team to come out of their shell and to kick on and properly start their season? Who knows but if they cannot take a bounce from a result like this there is no hope for them.
As for Michael Beale, many have doubted him, including myself, however, he deserves credit for the performance he got from the team, especially second half. And perhaps he may realise when it comes to his tactics and this group of players – sometimes less is more and the simple solution may be the best one.
That’s him got his win in a big game, he now has to go and follow it up with win after win. It’s the only thing that deemed acceptable at this club. But this one might be the one that calms everything down for a while and lets the team focus on winning week in, week out.
After this victory a run of wins is the only thing that will allow this team to grow. Do they have it in them? We’re about to find out.