Harsh Reality Dawns On Rangers
Rangers learned the harsh truth of the top level of European football at Ibrox this afternoon when they were humbled 0-4 by Liverpool.
Admittedly this was only a pre-season friendly, but with the return Champions League qualifier against Kaunas just three days away - and the tie delicately poised at 0-0 - the club faces the stark reality of a disastrous exit from Europe, both from a football and financial perspective, before the domestic season has even got under way.
There was a capacity crowd of 50,223 spectators present on a sunlit afternoon - an incredible attendance for a pre-season friendly, with a healthy contingent from Anfield - and Kenny Miller might have opened the scoring in the fifth minute when the ball broke to him following a long Allan McGregor clearance, only for his shot to be blocked.
Ten minutes later Fernando Torres' header from Yossi Benayoun's cross was just over, but the opening goal arrived in 23 minutes when a long-range shot from Damien Plessis was parried by McGregor, Torres stabbing home the rebound.
Liverpool were looking in the mood, and Steven Gerrard, striding through the middle, saw his 22-yard shot saved by McGregor in 28 minutes.
Four minutes later at the other end Sasa Papac was denied by goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri who clawed away a 25-yard chip.
It should have been all-square at the interval - but Nacho Novo, following a mazy run along the byeline and after rounding Cavalieri, was somehow denied a goal when Alvaro Arbeloa nipped in to dispossess him.
Both sides made five changes at the interval - and Novo was inches away from connecting with a low cross from substitute Jean-Claude Darcheville in 49 minutes.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 when David Ngog latched onto a Kirk Broadfoot error to lash a twenty-yard shot into the net.
Things went from bad to worse on the hour when Benayoun turned the ball home from close range after McGregor had produced a fine one-handed save from a vicious Christian Nemeth piledriver.
Six minutes later Ngog made space for himself before sending a twenty-yarder inches wide.
It was turning into a rout - and Xabi Alonso made it 4-0 from the penalty spot in seventy minutes after Broadfoot had upended Nemeth following a Darcheville error.
It was now shooting-in practise, but mercifully there was no further scoring, and afterwards Walter Smith was honest enough to admit:
"We were well beaten..."
With three days left to Kaunas, the clock is ticking in Rangers' season...
RANGERS McGregor (Alexander 62); Whittaker, Broadfoot, Weir (Webster 45), Papac (Dailly 45); Novo (Boyd 60), Hemdani, Thomson (Furman 45, McCulloch (Adam 45), Lafferty (Velicka 70); Miller (Darcheville 45)
UNUSED SUBS Bougherra
LIVERPOOL Cavalieri (Reina 62); Arbeloa (Agger 45), Skrtel (Derby 45), Carragher (Hyppia 45), Dossena; Kuyt (Insua 58), Gerrard (Spearing 58), Plessis (Alonso 45) , Benayoun (Pennant 70); Keane (Nemeth 58), Torres (Ngog 45)
REFEREE Craig Thomson