Rangers crash out of Europe with a wimper
Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra was axed from the Rangers starting eleven as the Ibrox side crashed out of Europe with a whimper.
A third successive home defeat for the Gers ensured there would be no parachute drop into the Europa League.
After two crushing 4-1 defeats to Sevilla and Unirea Urziceni, Walter Smith’s men were again outclassed, this time by VFB Stuttgart – a side without a win in their previous ten and perilously placed near the bottom of the Bundesliga.
But had it not been the heroics of goalkeeper Allan McGregor and the interventions of 17-year-old defender Danny Wilson the scoreline could have easily been even more damning.
Bougherra, left kicking his heels on the bench throughout the painful 90 minutes, will face the ire of some Rangers fans for being partly culpable in this latest Scottish football embarrassment.
The Algerian, who rescued a point for the Gers with a superb strike in Stuttgart, was dropped for last night’s must-win clash in Glasgow after returning home late from international duty.
Smith, already working with a threadbare squad, must have felt hard-pushed to leave out one of his better players but would have felt he had no option but to make an example of the central defender.
The Ibrox manager was not rewarded for departing from his usually pragmatic, defensive approach by opting for a three-pronged attack instead of a lone striker.
Kris Boyd, Rangers’ top scorer, was given a rare European start but failed to repay the faith shown by his manager when he spurned his side’s best opportunity by wastefully heading over the bar from an enticing Kenny Miller cross.
Over the course of this dismal Champions League campaign, Rangers have been the complete antithesis to the Celtic sides of Martin O’Neill and, to a lesser extent, Gordon Strachan who frequently relied on their strong home performances to compensate for a woefully poor away record.
Smith’s side have drawn twice away from home but now face a dead rubber against Sevilla in Spain in their final group match, whilst Stuttgart and Unirea will battle it out for a place in the last 16.
This season’s European failure of Rangers and Celtic, who also look certain to exit the Europa League at the group stages, will certainly harm Scottish clubs’ coefficient for such elite competitions.
Overcoming the arduous obstacles of the preliminary qualification rounds will almost certainly be the order of the day if any Scottish side is to reach the lucrative group stages next season.
And with the diminishing standard of the Old Firm, it could be a while before the spine-tingling Champions League music is next heard north of the border.