Well, this is the analysis for the months of November and December. Here’s a quick lowdown of the previous post:-
1)I am first in SPL
2) I am 3rd in my UEFA Champions league group. I have to win the next matches against Udinese and CSKA and draw against Bayern to qualify for the next round.
So lets see, do I remain first in the SPL? Do I qualify for the next round of the UCL? Am I out of the domestic cups? Read on!
Aberdeen vs Rangers
My second match against my rivals. They seem to be in pretty bad form at the moment, bordering on relegation. So this match ideally should be no problems for my side. It wasnt. I decided to play Lafferty up front as I believed Naismith needed some rest. Kirk Broadfoot opened the scoring for Rangers with a strong header. Lafferty added to the lead 2 minutes later and Steven Whittaker rounded up the half with a good strike. Score 3-0 at halftime. I was pretty happy. We were coasting to victory against our rivals. But then, Magennis spoilt the chances of my team getting a clean sheet by scoring. But I still had a 2 goal lead. Kerim Frei restored the 3 goal lead with an excellent shot from the edge of the box.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Rangers vs Bayern Munich
Well, this was a must-draw match. I had to draw this or win this to qualify for the next round. I badly wanted to go through to the next round. As you will recall, Bayern had comprehensively defeated me to emerge 2-0 winners at the Allianz Arena. I had to do something. I used the same formation but instead of counter, I changed it to attacking. Offence is the best defence and I wanted to take this game TO Bayern. The game started well. Both of us made good moves to unsettle the other defence. Manuel Neuer made some stunning saves to keep us out whereas the Bayern strikers were being outnumbered heavily by our defence. The first real opportunity came in the 39th minute. Robben whipped in a wonderful cross which Gomez headed towards goal. It luckily hit the crossbar and saved us. We returned to the dressing rooms, 0-0 at halftime. Rangers played better in the second half. The involvement of Davis was a huge bonus as he constantly unsettled Munich’s defence. But then, Diogo got sent off for a vicious foul. I started to worry as now, all our hard work for the last 65 minutes would be undone! But then, 10 minutes later, Van Buyten recieved his second yellow card and he was also sent off. 10 men on each side! Rangers battled on and nearly got the winning goal if it was for Neuer. The match ended 0-0. Really happy!! I now have a realistic chance of going to the next round!
Rangers vs Dundee Utd
One of the most EVEN matches I have ever been in. Any side could have won it here, and on a couple of occasions, Dundee came really close to scoring. But the hero of the day was my keeper, Allan McGregor. He really prevented Dundee from scoring the vital equaliser. Rangers started off well with us being 2-0 up in the first 20 minutes courtesy Steven Naismith. Gavin Gunning scored for Dundee in the 35th minute, setting the match up for a really nervy ending. The fact that we hit the post twice really shows how much pressure Dundee were under. The stats below will show you how even the match was:-
OLD FIRM DERBY
Rangers vs Celtic
Yet another Old Firm Derby. This was our chance of extending the lead at the top. The fact that this may/may not effectively decide the title added more pressure. I put Kyle Lafferty up front as Naismith had got a small injury and the match after this was a UCL match against Udinese, I wanted him fit. The match started badly as a mistake by Davis resulted in Scott Brown scoring his first goal of the match. A miracle happened after that. After many weeks of mediocrity, Kyle Lafferty really came back. 3 goals in 20 minutes stunned Celtic and me. He looked a shadow of his former self and fired Rangers from a 1 goal deficit to a 2 goal lead. Celtic never truly came back from that shock as Fleck added to his tally by scoring in the 66th minute. Majstorovic scored after that, but that was a consolation goal as the damage had already been done. Man of the Match:- Kyle Lafferty
Rangers vs St. Johnstone
IT IS TIME FOR REVENGE. If you remember, St. Johnstone delivered to me my first (and only) loss in the SPL. They scored a late winner through Sandanza in the 90th minute. But now they are at the Ibrox. We HAVE to defeat them. The match started evenly, reminiscent of the first match. But the difference was that this time, we controlled the ball well and used the ball well. We came close to scoring a couple of times but Naismith missed. It was halftime and the score was still 0-0. I became impatient and went to “overload mode”. Well, we had to wait a little, but then Naismith broke the deadlock and scored! YES!! Fleck then rounded up the scoring ironically in the 90th minute and sealed the match for us!
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Now that I had achieved a draw against Bayern, it was on me to win this match. And hope that CSKA lose against Bayern. So I HAD TO WIN THIS to improve my chances of qualifying to the next round. The match started evenly, but then a lapse of concentration from Bedoya led to a goal for Udinese! The pressure was on me. I decided to go to overload mode and despite it being just the 29th minute, I substituted Bedoya for the more creative, Polworth. We went in for halftime trailing 1-0. I lambasted my squad. This motivated them and it showed. The second half was much better as we managed to restrict Udinese while getting in attacks of our own. It finally paid off as Naismith was tripped and we got a PENALTY! Naismith stepped up and scored. 1-1. The pressure was on Udinese now as the goal gave my side confidence and a barrage of attacks rained down upon the Italian side. Davis sent in a killer through ball, slicing the defence open and Naismith finished! 2-1! We were in the lead with just 4 minutes of regular play left! Udinese had some attacks of their own but we dealt with them and finished the match, WINNERS.
Rangers vs Kilmarnock
The least said about this match the better it is. 5-1 to Rangers. Niall Alexander let a goal in which spoilt the cleansheet.
Rangers vs Dunfermline
Another easy match that I should be winning to consolidate my position at the top. Such matches are stepping stones to a title win. We considered early in the 8th minute and this left me wondering whether this would would a repeat of the St. Johnstone loss earlier this season. But I think my players used that as a catalyst to pick themselves up and Naismith scored the equaliser in the 21st minute. I was very happy as Naismith had been banging them in on a consistent basis the last few games. Fleck scored what the goal that put us in the lead. After that, it was Rangers all the way as Fleck and Naismith added to their tally later in the match.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Rangers vs CSKA Moscow
This was it. This was a make or break match for me. If we had to go through to the next round, we would have to beat CSKA. This would be tough considering they beat me 3-0 in the first leg. I fielded the same formation that had worked so well against Bayern but this time, I went into the match in overload. We were lucky as CSKA were a man down after just 11 minutes! Keisuke Honda got replaced and I was happy because Honda could cause my defence some serious problems.Then, Dorin Goian scored the goal from a corner to put us into the lead. Bedoya scored the second goal and suddenly, we were 2-0 up!! But then, Seydou Doumbia pulled one back. But no matter! Bedoya restored our 2 goal lead and scored from a distance. Vasiliy Berezutskiy added to his team’s troubles by scoring an own goal! 4-1!! We were coasting to victory! Doumbia scored a consolation goal in extra time but I knew the match was already ours!!
What the table looked like after our win:-
Well, after this euphoric win, it was our time to come back to earth. Here is the message I got a 3 days after the win:-
Hibernian vs Rangers
Hibernian is a side in which my future signing, Leigh Griffiths plays in. He has been in good form and I hope he takes his form with him when he joins our side on 10th of January. Dorin Goian opened the scoring and 10 minutes later, David Stephens put the ball in his own net. Naismith who has been in excellent form lately, scored 2 goals. Griffiths scored! I didnt mind this as he was joining my side anyway and the score was still 4-1. I decided to give Kyle Lafferty another chance, and he didnt disappoint, scoring a goal just 10 minutes after he came on.
St. Mirren vs Rangers
Another really easy match. But there was also an element of luck as St. Mirren hit two shots on the woodwork. I expected our side to score more but was disappointed. This was a match that we should have ideally won by 2-4 goals. But it was not to be. Naismith and Davis scored and my backup goalie Neil Alexander scored a disastrous own goal in extra time, thus giving the tie a very nervy finish. We won but we won in a scrappy manner.
OLD FIRM DERBY
Celtic vs Rangers
This was my first Old firm derby away from home. And I was determined to silence the Celtic fans and beat Celtic in their own backyard. As with all the previous Old Firm derbies, the match started in an even fashion. Kirk Broadfoot opened the scoring. But for Celtic. He scored an own goal!! I was outraged! If Broadfoot was responsible for our first loss against Celtic, I would sell him. And 6 minutes later, Broadfoot scored. This time for the Rangers. He made up for his mistake and scored with a header which Forster couldnt reach. 1-1!! Naismith then put Rangers in the lead. It was 2-1!! Excellent pass by Wylde and all Naismith had to do was poke it into the net. But our joy wasnt long lived as Scott Brown came from nowhere and blasted the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards. I was really angry with my defenders for allowing Brown so much space. For the next 20 minutes though, Celtic dominated and if it wasnt for my goalkeeper and Gary Hooper, they would have been easily leading by 2 goals. Hooper showed his frustration on Fleck by fouling him on the edge of the penalty area. Fleck measured the distance, hit the ball sweetly and scored!! FLECK HAD PUT RANGERS IN THE LEAD!! With just 7 minutes of normal time left, Celtic put their all but they stopped short and Rangers got away with the win.
What the SPL table looked like:-
Well, this is it. My next post will include a half-season analysis and may/may not include my activity in the transfer window.
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