Rangers finally banish Champions League black cloud, crumpled suits and weird implosion flashback
The sliding door moments aren’t much more striking than Rangers’ last meeting with Malmö.
The failure to overtake the Swedes and claim a £ 20million Champions League bounty in August 2011 was perhaps the club’s last chance to pull away from disaster.
Who knows what could have happened if the Gers had cashed in this windfall and repelled threats from the tax authorities for a few more months?
But what is certain is that when Jiloan Hamad jumped 10 minutes from time at Swedbank Stadium to condemn Ally McCoist’s nine Gers players to a 2-1 total defeat, the die was cast and the The Rangers’ course towards financial implosion has been drawn.
It will be another six months before the club’s administration announcement was made, but there was no escaping collision with the massive iceberg the Rangers were rushing towards.
The warning signs were there before the very important qualifier.
Craig Whyte had walked around Ibrox in his crumpled suit promising a return from the boom days, but his failure to land a series of targets – including Dundee United’s David Goodwillie – meant McCoist’s side were up against Malmö in short of quality.
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This was clearly felt when they lost the first leg in Glasgow 1-0 to a strike from Daniel Larsson.
Nikica Jelavic gave the champions hope they could turn things around and reach the playoffs when he put Rangers ahead in the second leg.
But the Gers quickly lost their lead and their place in the competition as Madjid Bougherra and Steven Whittaker were sent off before Hamad produced the late knife twist.
It took the Rangers the best part of a decade since to get their house back in order after that loss.
But after finally battling for the Premiership title away from Celtic’s grip and ending the Hoops’ reign of domination, next month the Rangers will have the opportunity to exorcise another ghost if the Swedes, as expected, overtake their opponents in the second qualifying round, Alfredo Morelos. the former HJK Helsinki, to arrange a meeting with Steven Gerrard’s team.
Malmö won his sixth title in the past 11 years last season to seal a return to Champions League action and already looks good on retaining his crown after gaining four points clear at the top of the Allsvenskan after 12 games.
The fact that the Swedes – currently led by former AC Milan and Denmark ace Jon Dahl Tomasson – are already in the race will be a concern for Gerrard, especially after being forced to peak at Wednesday’s trip to Blackpool following a Covid outbreak in Bloomfield Road.
It took them extra time to squeeze past Latvians Riga FC in the previous round, but they showed they can be useful in Europe last season, where they beat opponents Poland, Hungary and of Croatia before losing to the Spanish team Granada, whose course was only interrupted. by Manchester United in the last eight.
Well-traveled leader Antonio-Mirko Colak will be the main threat to Gerrard’s side.
The 27-year-old Croatian forward – currently on loan from Greek club POAK – may have missed a date with Steve Clarke’s Scottish side at Euro, but he’s doing wonders for Tomasson’s side with already nine goals this season.
And he’s ready to continue his addiction on goal against Rangers if he gets the chance.
“I’m happy with all the goals,” said Colak after scoring a fifth straight game in the 5-0 loss to Degerfors on Saturday.
“Right now I’m very happy. For me as a striker, I would compare the sensation to a drug.
“I don’t want you to write it that way, but it’s a special feeling. It was stupid of me to put it that way. Adrenaline rushes a better way to put it.
“You don’t want to stop doing this. You want more and more.
“It is important that we continue to play at this high level.
“We’re playing better and better, creating more and more chances.
“The team finds me better and better in the box, it makes me very happy as a striker. I don’t want to stop there, I want to keep giving everything for Malmö.
But Gerrard – whose team set a streak of shutout records last season – will believe his side can exploit a central defensive partnership that includes Bosnian defender Anel Ahmedhodzic and Franz Brorsson who has kept just three clean sheets in 14 games. this season.
Rangers will be without Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe as they serve bans imposed on them following March’s explosive clash with Slavia Prague.
But if Malmö overtakes Helsinki – which is not to be called off entirely after losing just one of 14 matches themselves after starting their Finland campaign in April – he will set up a comeback for Filip Helander.
The great defender started his professional senior career with the Sky Blues before moving to Italy, where he eventually caught the attention of the Gers.
Malmö sporting director Daniel Andersson was the Swede’s skipper in 2011.
But he knows his team will face a whole different test when they return to Glasgow.
He said: “We knew it would be a tough draw in the third round. It’s fun and inspiring – if we now beat HJK.
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