Spartak Moscow 4-3 Rangers: Gerrard suffers first European defeat as Gers boss

In a game where two defences staggered through the pyrotechnics of the Spartak Stadium like drunken sailors with smoke in their eyes, Rangers held the lead three times. And still lost.

They had ended a chaotic first half featuring five goals, including an OG for each side, and some calamitously bad defending with the three points in their grasp.

A 12th straight game without defeat in Europe was there for the taking but the failure to defend properly cost the Ibrox side a point, never mind all three.

Rangers were gifted the perfect start by an own goal from Spartak's Roman Emerenko

Rangers were gifted the perfect start by an own goal from Spartak's Roman Emerenko

Rangers were gifted the perfect start by an own goal from Spartak’s Roman Emerenko

The Spartak midfielder deflected a corner past his own goalkeeper in the fifth minute

The Spartak midfielder deflected a corner past his own goalkeeper in the fifth minute

The Spartak midfielder deflected a corner past his own goalkeeper in the fifth minute

MATCH FACTS

Spartak Moscow: Maksimenko, Rasskazov, Kutepov, Bocchetti, Melgarejo, Roman Eremenko (Glushakov 60), Fernando, Zobnin, Popov (Timofeev 71), Luiz Adriano (Ze Luis 81), Hanni

Subs Not Used: Rebrov, Dzhikija, Lomovitskiy, Eshchenko

Booked: Popov, Rasskazov, Fernando, Bocchetti, Melgarejo

Goals: Melgarejo 22, Goldson 35 og, Luiz Adriano 58, Hanni 59

Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Katic, Goldson, Flanagan (Halliday 82), Coulibaly (Grezda 82), Ejaria (McAuley 90), Arfield, Candeias, Morelos, Middleton

Subs Not Used: Foderingham, Jack, Ross McCrorie, Worrall

Booked: Coulibaly, Morelos

Goals: Roman Eremenko 5 og, Candeias 27, Middleton 41

Ref: Ivan Bebek (Croatia)

Hindsight is the only perfect science and, looking back, there was an argument for a different approach in the second half. A case for Steven Gerrard abandoning his free-flowing football and tightening things up at the back.

Yet this was the kind of night when the Rangers defence would have struggled to park a mini, never mind a bus. The damage done during 60 calamitous second-half seconds was entirely typical of their overall performance.

‘If the problem was tactical, I would have looked to have changed personnel or formation,’ said Gerrard afterwards. ‘But the goals we conceded were not due to tactics — they were basic errors of defending.

‘Of course, you can make substitutions but these players are human. At times they might make mistakes but you trust them in the second half to defend better.

‘Our message at the interval was to defend better and we could win, with the worse case being we come away with something from the match. We had a terrible five minutes and paid the price.’

Spartak always needed the points more. With Villarreal drawing 0-0 in Vienna, defeat here saw Rangers drop to third in the group but with just two points between the four teams.

Lorenzo Melgarejo equalised for the home side with a powerful header in the 22nd minute

Lorenzo Melgarejo equalised for the home side with a powerful header in the 22nd minute

Lorenzo Melgarejo equalised for the home side with a powerful header in the 22nd minute

Villarreal visit Glasgow next and a place in the last 32 is still attainable. Suddenly, however, it feels a good deal more difficult.

Make no mistake, having lost each of their last four home league games Spartak were there for the taking.

Leading 3-2 at half-time, this was a game Rangers would have won but for the loss of two goals in the 58th and 59th minutes rendering a night which began in such positive fashion a huge disappointment.

Daniel Candeias made it 2-1 with a super strike after running clear of the defence

Daniel Candeias made it 2-1 with a super strike after running clear of the defence

Daniel Candeias made it 2-1 with a super strike after running clear of the defence

With just five minutes on the clock, young Glenn Middleton’s first corner kick was knocked into his own net by Spartak’s Finnish midfielder Roman Eremenko – brother of former Kilmarnock playmaker Alexei – and the home support took it badly.

In the opening ten minutes alone three flares were launched on to the pitch, bringing the certainty of a UEFA fine. Yet the pyrotechnics were quickly matched on the pitch, the opening 45 minutes an incredible affair.

Spartak equalised after 23 minutes. Winger Ivelin Popov proved a menace to recalled left-back Jon Flanagan, with his twist and cross finding team-mates queuing up to score. Lorenzo Melgarejo got there first, swooping in ahead of Roman Zobnin to head the ball into the net from close range for 1-1.

Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos celebrate after Rangers take the lead for the second time

Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos celebrate after Rangers take the lead for the second time

Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos celebrate after Rangers take the lead for the second time

Parity didn’t last long. Flanagan’s pass over the top after 26 minutes found Daniel Candeias unmarked and onside. The Portuguese winger fired Rangers back into the lead with a terrific finish into the bottom corner. From beginning to end it was a fine goal.

Better, certainly, than Spartak’s second equaliser seven minutes later.

Connor Goldson’s own goal was a bizarre affair. Coming seconds after home captain Salvatore Bocchetti so nearly turned another one into his own net at the other end, the catalyst – once again – was Popov, a slide-rule pass in behind Flanagan giving over-lapping right-back Nikolai Rasskazov the chance to slot the ball across the face of goal.

Spartak equalised for a second time through Connor Goldson's own goal in 35th minute

Spartak equalised for a second time through Connor Goldson's own goal in 35th minute

Spartak equalised for a second time through Connor Goldson’s own goal in 35th minute

The obvious foot for Goldson to use to clear was his left. Using his right, instead, the £3million signing watched in horror as the ball spun up and careered into the corner of the net past McGregor for 2-2.

Amazingly, Rangers came again. Spartak’s defending was laughable at times, although the home fans were certainly not seeing the funny side.

At the tender age of 18, Middleton had a moment to savour when he slotted the Ibrox team back into the lead in the 42nd minute with his first European goal.

Only a dubious offside flag prevented Morelos making it 4-2 at the interval. That the Colombian top scorer was one of the few Rangers players who finished the night without a goal showed just how unusual this game finished up being.

Glenn Middleton celebrates scoring the third goal for Rangers in the 41st minute

Glenn Middleton celebrates scoring the third goal for Rangers in the 41st minute

Glenn Middleton celebrates scoring the third goal for Rangers in the 41st minute

Given how generous both defences were being, this was never a game likely to finish 3-2.

The case was there for Rangers closing things down and tighten up. The way they were defending, it might have made no difference.

The loss of two quick goals was a bitter pill for Gerrard to swallow, however.

Spartak levelled the game at 3-3 when Sofiane Hanni’s audacious back-flick of a low cross was superbly blocked by the outstretched right foot of McGregor once again. Whatever happened here, the Rangers keeper can honestly say he could have done no more. Yet, as the ball spun up in the air, Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano bulleted a header into the unguarded net for 3-3.

Spartak secured memorable win when Sofiane Hanni's deflected shot flew into the net

Spartak secured memorable win when Sofiane Hanni's deflected shot flew into the net

Spartak secured memorable win when Sofiane Hanni’s deflected shot flew into the net

There was barely time to regroup when Spartak claimed the lead for the first time in the game.

It was another horrible, if deeply unfortunate, moment for Goldson. The credit for a wickedly-deflected 20-yard strike was given to Hanni. Yet television pictures showed the ball spinning off the Englishman’s shin and changing direction in mid-air. Spartak supporters chose not to quibble.

Only the junction of post and crossbar prevented Spartak captain Bocchetti making it 5-3 with 16 minutes to play, a header from Popov’s free-kick careering off the woodwork — the defender denied a goal at the second attempt by McGregor’s legs.

Steven Gerrard suffered his first European defeat as Rangers boss in his 12th game in charge

Steven Gerrard suffered his first European defeat as Rangers boss in his 12th game in charge

Steven Gerrard suffered his first European defeat as Rangers boss in his 12th game in charge

Right at the death, Rangers laid siege to the home goal and almost snatched their point.

A penalty-box scramble saw James Tavernier denied by the post, Spartak hacking the ball clear before substitute Andy Halliday smashed a 20-yard strike inches wide of the post, although the referee had already blown his whistle for an infringement.

The relief of the home fans at full-time told its own tale. After throwing away the lead three times, the emotions of the Rangers manager were rather different.

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.