Union St-Gilloise 2 Rangers 0: Van Bronckhorst’s side suffers shock Champions League defeat after VAR penalty decision
RANGERS suffered a disappointing defeat in their opening fixture of their Champions League qualifying campaign.
The Gers travelled to Brussels to face Union St-Gilloise in their third round qualifier.
It wasn’t quite the home leg that the Belgians were hoping for after they had to change venue from their Stade Joseph Marien Stadium because it didn’t meet UEFA standards.
But they looked right at home in the capital as they beat the Europa League finalists 2-0 on the night.
It was revealed this morning that the winner of the tie would face either PSV or Monaco in the play-off round.
But now the Gers will need a major turnaround at Ibrox next week if they stand any chance of meeting the winner of the other fixture in the next stage.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst provided a hint on his No1 selection as Jon McLaughlin received the nod for the second week in a row after featuring against Livingston at the weekend.
Malik Tillman and new signing Rabbi Matondo got their first start as well.
Van Bronckhorst rewarded the Bayern Munich loanee after his impressive impact off the bench on Saturday, while the Welshman stepped in for the injured Ryan Kent on the wing.
John Souttar started on the bench, with James Sands partnering Connor Goldson at the back.
James Tavernier and Borna Barisic joined the pair in defence.
The Dutchman opted for Ryan Jack, John Lundstram and Glen Kamara as the trio in the middle of the park.
Hitman Antonio Colak lead the line in attack.
And new signings Tom Lawrence, Ben Davies and Ridvan Yilmaz watched from the dugout.
The tie started slowly with the Ibrox side controlling possession and staying patient on the ball.
The Belgians looked like the away side early doors as they kept 11 men behind the ball and allowed Rangers to set the tempo.
It took just seven minutes for the Gers to get their first chance of the game.
Barisic lined up to take a dangerous free-kick just inches outside the box after Colak was fouled.
The Croatian left-back fired his effort above the wall and on target but Union SG stopper Anthony Moris managed to tip it wide of the post.
Sands and Tillman then tried their luck from long range minutes later, but they failed to test the ‘keeper.
Twenty minutes went by before the home side finally had their first real opportunity.
Lazare Amani did well to beat Barisic on the right wing and he gave the ball to teammate Teddy Teuma, who then drilled the ball into the middle.
But his cross was well-cleared by Sands at the back.
It gave Union SG confidence though and they should have taken the lead five minutes later.
Simon Adingra had space on the left with Tavernier out of position and he fired a cross into the box with Amani and Dante Vanzeir waiting to pounce.
It was Amani who got on the end of it, but he couldn’t direct his effort goalwards from six yards and it went out for a goal kick.
They didn’t have to wait long before getting another chance though.
And the Belgians took the lead on the 27th minute through skipper Teuma.
The captain was lively up until the goal, and he fired the ball past McLaughlin from inside the box after some scrappy defending from Rangers.
It was a well-deserved goal after they began to take control of the tempo around 10 minutes earlier.
And Rangers continued to look sloppy at the back until half-time.
Sands gifted Union SG in the box with a wayward pass and it could have been another clear-cut chance for Adingra, but Tavernier did brilliantly to dive in and block his shot inside the box.
Van Bronckhorst would have been counting down the minutes until the break as his side looked under the cosh.
But despite looking second best at the end of the first 45, he opted for no changes at half-time and the same 11 returned for the second half.
And the second period of play started very much like the first with both teams starting cautiously and getting a feel for possession, but this time it was Union SG in control.
It was the Belgian side who had the first chance as well after some quick counter play led to Vanzier with the ball in the Rangers box.
He chipped the ball in for Adingra in the middle, but the striker failed to keep his header down and on target.
Then right-back Bart Nieuwkoop had a pop from the edge of the box which nearly caused McLaughlin more problems, but he dragged his effort wide of the post.
It was approaching the hour mark and there was still no sign of any changes from Van Bronckhorst.
The first sub was made on the 66th minute as both Yilmaz and Davies came on for their debuts, with Barisic and Jack making way.
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Rangers had their first real chance of the half a couple of minutes later as Colak made space on the edge of the box to drill the ball across the face of goal, but there were no takers and it trickled away out of danger.
McLaughlin then had to pull off a fantastic double save as he denied Adingra and Teuma at the other end of the pitch.
The incident led to a VAR check as there were appeals that the ball hit Goldson’s hand in the build-up.
And after checking the replay on the screen, referee Irfan Peljto awarded a penalty and Vanzeri tucked it away from 12 yards.
Van Bronckhorst then quickly replaced Tillman and Matondo with Lawrence and Scott Wright before the restart.
Union SG nearly made it three as well.
Goldson gifted the ball to Vanzeir at the halfway line and the pacy forward drove through the middle and found himself one-on-one with McLaughlin.
But the Gers stopper stood strong and denied the chance to keep his side still in the tie.
Tavernier was also called into action late on as he had to clear the ball off the line to deny a clear goalscoring opportunity.
It ended in disaster for Rangers as the final whistle went and the Belgians ran off in celebration.
The tie is still all to play for, but the Blues face a mountain of a task in the return leg at Ibrox next week.
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