Euro progress provides financial lift for Rangers
Winner: Scott Arfield (pic: SNS Group)
Rangers 3 Standard Liege 2
For a club needing additional funding of nearly £9m to see out the season, Rangers’ qualification for the last 32 of the Europa League will have been warmly welcomed by the Ibrox money men.
Last month’s annual accounts showed a pre-tax loss of £17.7m and that £8.8m was required by way of debt or equity funding by the end of the current campaign to allow the club to meet its liabilities.
Last season’s run to the last 16 brought in nearly £21m and the significance of this latest success wasn’t lost on boss Steven Gerrard.
Progress from the group stages for the second season running was achieved with victory over the Belgians, with the battle for top spot to be decided in the last set of fixtures.
“Everyone knows it is big for financial reasons. I’m sure the board are pleased,” he said.
“More importantly it’s for the fans. They want to follow their team near and far, but unfortunately the circumstances don’t allow that right now.
“But we need to keep making them proud while they watch from home and the important thing is they stay safe. And my players want to compete against the best and be challenged by the best.
“So the longer we stay in Europe the better. This also gives us the chance to make a few changes if we want to which will hopefully help us be fresh domestically.”
He added: “Would I like us to finish top? Of course. At Rangers you always want to aim to be top.
“You’ve always got to aim to be first but I’ve got to look at the big picture and realise what’s more important and what the key games are and make decision from there.”
Scott Arfield netted the winner midway through the second half after Rangers twice came from behind to equalise.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic (Ughelumba, 88), Davis, Kamara, Arfield (Zungu, 86), Roofe (Itten, 89), Morelos (Aribo, 79), Kent.
Goals: Rangers – Goldson (39), Tavernier (pen, 45), Arfield (63); Standard Liege – Lestienne (6), Cop (41).
Other Group D result: Benfica 4 Lech Poznan 0.
Defeat: Neil Lennon (pic: SNS Group)
AC Milan 4 Celtic 2
A night which started so well for Celtic ended with the familiar taste of defeat after the Hoops threw away a two-goal lead in Italy.
Boss Neil Lennon was given the backing of majority shareholder Dermot Desmond after the shock League Cup loss to Ross County but there will inevitably be more questions asked after the San Siro slump.
It was a brighter performance from the struggling Glasgow side, albeit they couldn’t qualify from Group H, but they have now won just twice in their last 11 games.
First-half goals from Odsonne Edouard and Tom Rogic saw the visitors storm into an unlikely two-goal lead against the Serie A leaders after just 14 minutes. However, the home side were back on parity by the break and added another two goals without reply in the second half.
“I was delighted with a lot of aspects of our play,” said Lennon.
“Even at 3-2, I thought we were always in the game, and we looked a threat all night. But we’ve let ourselves down in not being physical enough in the tackle at times.
“It’s not as if we were cut open, we have plenty of players back to deal with it and we don’t, so that’s the way the game went. That’s where the tie was lost really.
“The scoreline doesn’t do us justice. We’re talking about playing AC Milan at the San Siro, we’re sitting here disappointed that we haven’t got something out of the game.
“Other people may say it’s another defeat, another four goals, I get that, I understand that. But the quality of opposition we’re playing tonight is top class, and the performance of the team and the players as individuals was a very, very high standard.”
Celtic: Barkas, Elhamed, Bitton, Ajer, Laxalt, Brown (Soro, 78), McGregor, Frimpong, Rogic (Ntcham, 67), Christie (Klimala, 86), Edouard.
Goals: AC Milan – Calhanoglu (24), Castillejo (26), Hauge (50), Diaz (82); Celtic -Rogic (7), Edouard (14).
Other Group H result: Lille 2 Sparta Prague 1.