Rangers count cost of £30m Champions League exit
Blow: Steven Gerrard (pic: SNS Group).
Rangers 1 Malmo 2 (agg: 2-4)
Champions League 3rd qualifying round, 2nd leg
Rangers have been left counting the cost of a disastrous Champions League exit with defeat to Malmo seeing them lose out on a £30m jackpot.
Steven Gerrard had been dreaming of the group stages and the accompanying financial rewards but instead suffered a nightmare against the impressive Swedes, who played the entire second half with 10 men.
The loss sees Rangers now take on Alashkert of Kazakhstan or Armenians Kairat Almaty for a place in the Europa League group phase instead of Ludogorets in the Champions League play-off round.
It is scant consolation for a side which had waited a decade to experience Europe’s premier club competition.
Falling at the first hurdle could have ramifications closer to home for Gerrard, who may now come under pressure to sell some of his prize assets to keep the Ibrox bean counters satisfied.
It was Rangers’ third defeat in a row in a season which has yet to gain any momentum, a shock league defeat to Dundee United sandwiched between losses to Malmo in both legs of the third qualifying round tie.
They were given the ideal platform to sweep aside the Swedes, Alfredo Morelos levelling the tie on aggregate after just 19 minutes before Bonke Innocent was dismissed on the stroke of half-time.
A capacity crowd – the first at Ibrox since March 2020 – expected Rangers to complete the job after the break. Instead it was the visitors who showed their class, netting twice without reply despite their numerical disadvantage as the hosts ran out of ideas.
“The reality is we have lost three games out of four. At Rangers that’s not good enough, we are well aware of that,” said Gerrard.
“And we are well aware of the fact we have lost the second-half against 10 men, 2-0. We got the second-half performance wrong and that’s on us.
“The reality is at this level you can’t concede two goals in the away leg and the home leg because you make things really difficult for yourself. Our second-half performances in both games haven’t been good enough.”
He added: “The fans were superb and gave us everything we asked for. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to give them a good performance and only did half the job. We need to pick ourselves up and reset.”
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Davis, Arfield (Hagi, 70), Aribo, Kent, Wright (Sakala, 63), Morelos.
Goals: Rangers – Morelos (19); Malmo – Colak (53, 57).