Defensive tactics pay off as Rangers overcome Bursaspor
Rangers set their sights on the knockout stages of the Champions League after grinding out a 1-0 win against Turkish champions Bursaspor.
The Scottish champions had failed to win their previous six European games at Ibrox, including their three Champions League games last season, but were buoyed by a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Old Trafford two weeks ago and recorded their first win at home since November 2007.
Make no mistake; Rangers will never be one of the most enjoyable of teams to watch in the Champions League, nor will they be a free-scoring side, but led by 40-year-old veteran David Weir, they are turning into one of the most assured defensive units in the competition.
Before the game, the talk about Bursaspor goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov was that he takes the penalties for his side, but the Bulgarian had a first half to forget in Glasgow as he flapped at two crosses before being partly at fault for the only goal of the game.
Steven Whittaker’s deep cross found the head of Kirk Broadfoot, despite Ivankov favourite to win the ball, and the midfielder’s header down fell to Steven Naismith who prodded the ball home at the Ivankov’s near post.
Rangers continued to press the Bursaspor defence in the first half, and controlled the game as the visitors struggled to get up and running – their only real chance a 30-yard free-kick special from Brazilian-born defender GÃƒÂ¶kcek Vederson which tested Allan McGregor.
Naismith had the chance to double his Champions League tally, but screwed a volley wide ten minutes before the break.
Lone striker Kenny Miller came even closer to doubling Rangers’ lead within a minute of the restart, but Ivankov did well to save with his legs
Speaking after the game, Smith said: “It’s a great win because it’s a difficult climate to operate in. There were a few disappointments last season in home games so it’s nice to get a win.
“It was a terrific goal, a good header by Kirk Broadfoot and a good finish by Steven. We had started well and possibly deserved to go into the lead at that time so we were delighted.”
“In other games here in the Champions League, we’ve played well and haven’t managed to get in front. We’ve then lost a goal, had to go and chase the game, and we’ve paid the penalty for it.
“But it was good to get in front today, it gave us something to hold on to and we did that extremely well. These games are like cup ties -it’s important to get the first goal.”
Rangers’ victory means they sit joint top of Group C with Manchester United, who also won 1-0 with a late goal this week in Valencia.
When the draw was made United and Valencia had been labelled as favourites to qualify, but the group has been blown wide open as Smith now prepares for a visit from the Spanish league leaders in three weeks’ time.
“When Valencia come here it will be a big night for everyone,” Smith added. “From our point of view it gives us another opportunity-but we appreciate they are an excellent side.”
If Rangers can secure another draw against Los Che, Smith’s tactics, however dull, will have been fully justified as they edge closer to a continued European campaign.