‘Baller’, ‘Magic’, ‘Buy him’ – Some Rangers fans are in awe of midfielder’s Europa display

'Baller', 'Magic', 'Buy him' – Some Rangers fans are in awe of midfielder's Europa display – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Rangers picked up a 3-2 win over Braga in the Europa League last night.

The Scottish giants pulled off a remarkable comeback after going down 2-0. Ianis Hagi and Joe Aribo scored in the second half to give Steven Gerrard’s side a vital win.

Losing the first leg at home would have been a terrible blow for Rangers. It could have been the end of their European campaign.

After the second-half performance, Rangers will now fancy their chances in the tie. It will be interesting to see how they perform in the second leg.

Braga are a good team and they showed their quality at Ibrox last night. If Rangers slip up at the back, they will be punished.

Steven Gerrard’s men will have to be solid at the back in order to go through.

The Rangers boss will be delighted with his team’s performance. Ianis Hagi, in particular, was outstanding for the Ibrox outfit.

The attacking midfielder was at the heart of everything and he scored a vital brace.

Rangers fans will be delighted with what they have seen so far from their new signing.

Here is what the fans had to say after the game.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

‘That’s why I went for it’: 28-yr-old reveals why he turned down Rangers move in summer

'That's why I went for it': 28-yr-old reveals why he turned down Rangers move in summer – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Ivory Coast defender Simon Deli has revealed why he chose to snub the move to Rangers in summer.

The 28-year-old was a target for Steven Gerrard but he chose to join Club Brugge instead.

Deli has revealed that Brugge had a more ambitious project and therefore he turned down the move to Glasgow.

Speaking to  Nord Eclair (cited by Daily Record): “Last summer, I had three main options. Either I stayed [at Slavia Prague] with a great wage and the assurance of being captain, or I left for Rangers or Club Brugge to take up a new challenge. Club Brugge was a more attractive, more ambitious prospect for me. That’s why I went for it.”

The former Slavia Prague defender has been a good player for Brugge this season and he would have been a good addition to Steven Gerrard’s back four.

Rangers ended up signing Helander after missing out on Deli. However, the Swedish defender has missed the last two months with a foot injury.

It will be interesting to see how Helander performs in the long run. He has the talent to shine in the Scottish Premiership but he will have to adapt quickly and work hard in order to earn a starting berth ahead of Goldson and Katic.

Rangers have been inconsistent at the back this season and they have conceded some poor goals in the recent weeks.

It will be interesting to see if Gerrard moves for another defender at the end of this season. Rangers will have to tighten up at the back if they want to challenge Celtic.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Ryan Gauld pinpoints two players who will make the difference for Rangers tonight

Ryan Gauld pinpoints two players who will make the difference for Rangers tonight – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Former Dundee United player Ryan Gauld has predicted Rangers to beat Braga at Ibrox.

He also claimed that Rangers are likely to go through to the next round.

Although Braga are a good side, Gauld believes that Rangers fans will make it very difficult for Braga at Ibrox.

Speaking to Bola Branca, Gauld said: “They drew at the Dragao and won at home. They defend very well and have a lot of quality. It’s very difficult for any team to go to Ibrox and I think Rangers will go through. The stadium will be full with around 50,000 fans and it will be very difficult for Braga.”

He added: “I think Braga are in good form but that atmosphere in Scotland helps Rangers a lot. I know it will be different here. Over there Rangers will win, here I don’t know what will happen.”

It will be interesting to see if Rangers perform in the Europa League tonight. They will be under pressure to put on a good display.

They have been inconsistent in the league in the recent weeks and Steven Gerrard will demand a big performance from his players here. The fans will be expecting a win as well.

Rangers have the quality to pick up a win here and they will fancy their chances in front of their own fans.

A good first leg result will be key to their qualification hopes for the next round.

Gauld also revealed that Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent are likely to make all the difference for Rangers against Braga. He thinks the two Rangers players will be the key threats for the Portuguese opposition.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog

Journey to the centre of the Europa League – last 32, first legs

VAR fans rejoice! The unstoppable ascent (descent?) of technological intervention in football continues apace, with the belated introduction of video assistant referees to the UEFA Europa League.

The VAR will be deployed in each game of the knockout phase, which kicks off on Thursday. This decision was taken by UEFA last September, following the introduction of the wildly popular system in several competitions last year. VAR analysis and training took place at UEFA’s winter course for top European referees in Mallorca last month, with the match officials also “given an update on VAR procedures”.

Embed from Getty Images

UEFA’s Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti, who once bestrode Serie A and beyond with great authority, proclaimed: “We’re very happy with the figures that we’ve seen in the Champions League – in 108 matches in total, 27 decisions have been corrected through the VAR system, (so) a decision has only been overturned every four matches – this shows the quality of the referees’ performances… The time taken is important. So far this season, the average has been 1 minute 30 seconds – 15 seconds less than last year.”

However, I would emphasise once more that VAR is only for clear and obvious mistakes, and not for controversial situations,” he added, without hint of controversy (or irony).

Football needs good referees above all – match officials with a strong personality on the field of play, who take correct and courageous decisions.

A worthy sermon, indeed, Signor Rosetti. Certainly, the marmite-flavoured system has been utilised more competently in continental competition than in the Premier League, where painful first-year teething troubles persist.

Wolves, in particular, feel as though they have been on the receiving end of a number of tight calls this term. Boss Nuno has been reluctant to lay blame at technology’s door, however, preferring to focus on his unshakeable process-driven mantra (an approach more traditionally known as: “We’re taking it one game at a time, Barry”) during post-match interviews.

His side’s impressive return to European competition has matched the ease with which they have integrated into the upper echelons of top-flight football. The welcome return of Willy Boly from a broken ankle has helped the Black Country side keep back-to-back clean sheets, while their counter-attacking threat (Adama Traoré, et al) is increasingly notorious.

Opponents Espanyol were winners of Group H but have had an otherwise awful season. Rooted in the Primera División relegation zone, the Barcelona-based club have twice changed manager, settling now on ex-Barça defender, Abelardo. Three ambitious signings for 40 million euros – headlined by Raúl de Tomás (or RDT, as he prefers) – have been parachuted in to arrest the decline. This was a fortune in Espanyol terms, but has started to take some effect. A crucial win over relegation rivals Mallorca brought them closer to safety, before a valuable draw with Sevilla at the weekend. RDT – with five goals in as many La Liga games already – unfortunately misses out through injury, so a compact, defensive side will hope to grind out a draw at an atmospheric Molineux.

Embed from Getty Images

Beating Wolves to top spot in the group stage was a rare highlight in an inconsistent opening half-season for SC Braga. Events took a sharp turn for the better, however, when the club with a stadium hewn from sheer rockface promoted their 35-year-old B-team coach, Ruben Amorim to the dugout. A former Benfica midfielder, his first game in charge resulted in a 7-1 thumping of Belenenses, which was soon followed with an improbable defeat of Porto in the League Cup final.

It has, in fact, been a fruitful phase in the club’s modest history, with Braga’s beach soccer team recently crowned World Club Champions. With such feel-good factor serving to build momentum, they remain unbeaten under their new coach. And, to cap it all, the side which has become renowned as a production line of local and Brazilian talent for bigger fish around the Iberian Peninsula, deservedly conquered table-topping Benfica at Estádio da Luz last weekend.

Paulinho (with four goals in the last three Europa League matchdays; two against Beşiktaş and once versus Wolves and Slovan Bratislava) expertly led the line. While, from the bench in this landmark win, emerged the twinkle-toed Francisco Trincão – recently sold for 31m euros (£26m) to Barcelona.

The nimble 20-year-old forward will join the Catalan giants in July, with his contract containing a 500m euro buy-out clause – presumably not only as a reflection of his burgeoning talent but also due to the modern penchant for such pointlessly absurd release fees.

Last-32 opponents Rangers, by contrast, have been seriously underwhelming since returning from the SPL winter break. One of several issues facing manager Steven Gerrard is the Ibrox pitch. The effects of several storms have rendered the playing surface something of a wreck, so a direct, aggressive style will likely be employed. Amorim has already acknowledged the need for caution in this regard and is undoubtedly wary of a side that saw off Porto in the group phase.

Embed from Getty Images

However, Rangers’ star man Alfredo Morelos has been curiously quiet of late, not only in terms of goals but in relation to trademark controversial incidents too. Taking once more to his favourite stage – the Colombian was the top scorer in Europa League qualifying this season with eight goals and added a group stage-leading six – Morelos nevertheless will be fancied to make a grand impact on proceedings in one way or another. Incidentally, his total of 14 is the most ever scored by a player in UEFA football club competition before Christmas and is already enough to leave him just four off the season record set by compatriot Radamel Falcao in helping Porto win the 2010/11 Europa League.

Most goals in a single UEFA men’s club competition season (including qualifying)

18 Radamel Falcao (Porto, 2010/11 UEFA Europa League)
17 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2013/14 UEFA Champions League)
16 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2015/16 UEFA Champions League)
15 Jürgen Klinsmann (Bayern München, 1995/96 UEFA Cup)
15 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2017/18 UEFA Champions League)
14 José Altafini (AC Milan, 1962/63 European Champion Clubs’ Cup)
14 Lothar Emmerich (Borussia Dortmund, 1965/66 European Cup Winners’ Cup)
14 Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke, 2011/12 UEFA Europa League)
14 Lionel Messi (Barcelona, 2011/12 UEFA Champions League)
14 Alfredo Morelos (Rangers, 2019/20 UEFA Europa League)
14 Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United, 2002/03 UEFA Champions League)
14 John Wark (Ipswich Town, 1980/81 UEFA Cup)

Just behind the Rangers hitman in terms of group stage goals was Manchester United’s expensive new signing, Bruno Fernandes (then of Sporting), with five goals. The Portugal playmaker struck twice against PSV on Matchday Five and also supplied three assists to further inflate the figures in a stunning statistical portfolio while at Estádio José Alvalade.

Expected to orchestrate United’s latest attempt at rising from the mire of mediocrity, Fernandes is eligible to represent his new club as a result of a change to UEFA rules – players can now represent more than one club per season in Europe. Nonetheless, it has predominantly been Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s crop of talented youngsters (including Mason Greenwood, with four group stage goals) that has ensured progress so far.

In addition to Greenwood, the timely emergence of Brandon Williams as a first-teamer has also been among the highlights of their run to date. Forgotten man Eric Bailly has impressed upon his return to action and may be among those given a start at Club Brugge. The Blau-Zwart may be top of the First Division by nine points and even snatched an unlikely 2-2 draw at Real Madrid in their Champions League group earlier this season, but will most probably adopt a more defensive line-up, with a lone frontman – possibly Nigerian forward Bonaventure Dennis or Czech striker Michael Krmenčík. Dennis scored both goals at the Bernabeu and celebrated in colourful style.

Continuing the theme of goalscorers, many eyes – and euros worth of bets – will be on the likes of Sevilla’s La Masia graduate, Munir (five goals and two assists in his first 368 minutes of group stage action); Myron Boadu of AZ (like Greenwood aged just 18, the Netherlands U-21 international already had four goals and two assists by Matchday Five); and the well-travelled journeyman Claudiu Keşerü (four goals so far for Bulgaria’s Ludogorets).

Embed from Getty Images

A long-time servant of modest Ligue 1 clubs, the Romanian striker took to social media to proclaim his excitement at matching up against Serie A heavyweights, Internazionale – and Romelu Lukaku in particular – when the draw was made.  It will be a formidable task, however.

Under Antonio Conte, Champions League dropouts Inter must be considered favourites to triumph in the Gdansk final in May – providing a strong side is fielded. Winter window signings included the experienced trio of Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young and Victor Moses. Young’s first goal for the club came in the weekend defeat to fellow scudetto contenders, Lazio.

Simone Inzaghi’s exciting side suffered a tame group stage exit, largely due to a lack of commitment (capocannonieri leader Ciro Immobile was often rested) yet thrive domestically. Will Inter follow suit in order to throw everything in to finally toppling Juventus from their towering perch? Or will they – as vice-president and club legend Javier Zanetti suggests – respect their continental reputation by targeting Europa League success as something of a consolation prize?

Similarly, what will be the intent of La Liga’s Champions League-chasing Getafe and their opponents Ajax – before the vultures once again descend in the summer for stars such as André Onana, Donny van der Beek and Hakim Ziyech (already Stamford Bridge-bound)? Whatever, it promises to be an intriguing match-up and a captivating chance to see late-flourishing forwards Jaime Mata, Jorge Molina and Ángel Rodríguez mixing it with the graduates from Europe’s most eminent academy, De Toekomst.

This, alongside several others we didn’t have time to mention, is the kind of fixture which makes the Europa League, for all its flaws, a journey to treasure.

‘Rangers actually called me up’ – Championship midfielder opens up on transfer interest

'Rangers actually called me up' – Championship midfielder opens up on transfer interest – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Middlesbrough midfielder Marcus Tavernier has revealed that he could have joined Rangers in the past.

Speaking to Daily Record, the 20-year-old explained that he had the chance to join the Scottish giants after leaving Newcastle United.

Apparently, Rangers called him up and asked him to join the club.

Tavernier has impressed with Middlesbrough in the Championship this season. He has 2 goals and 4 assists to his name already.

The youngster opened up about his time at Newcastle as well and how he was disappointed after the Magpies decided to let him go.

His brother James Tavernier is the Rangers captain right now and the 20-year-old claims that he had no idea how big the club was when he had the chance to join them.

It was when he went up to see his brother in Glasgow, he realized that Rangers are a huge club.

He said: “Funnily enough, when I was on that six-week trial at Boro, Rangers actually called me up and they wanted me to go there. So I could have been there before James! I planned to go up to Glasgow but Middlesbrough was so close to home and I liked everything about the club. Back then, I had no idea how big Rangers are. I didn’t really know anything about them before my brother went there. As soon as he signed and I went up to see him, it really opened my eyes to the size of that club.”

It would have been interesting to see Tavernier at Rangers. The 20-year-old has a lot of potential and he could have been a very good option for the Ibrox outfit.

The youngster is always improving and if he continues to perform like this, he might get a chance to join a bigger club in future.

From Sportslens.com – Football News | Football Blog