Rangers 1-0 Feyenoord: Steven Gerrard’s men pay tribute to Fernando Ricksen with a win

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Like the man they came to honour Rangers dug deep into their reserves and confronted adversity head on. Fernando Ricksen would surely have approved.

With a couple of minutes gone players and supporters from both sides stopped to applaud the former Ibrox No 2. It was the only pause for breath in a frantic and breathless game of football. 

A night when Rangers hunted in packs, the only question for Steven Gerrard was where this aggression and intensity was when he needed it against Celtic. 

Rangers got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start with a victory over Feyenoord

Rangers got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start with a victory over Feyenoord

It was Sheyi Ojo (right) who scored the winning goal for his team, striking in the first half

It was Sheyi Ojo (right) who scored the winning goal for his team, striking in the first half

Rangers held a minute's silence to honour Fernando Ricksen's life ahead of Feyernoord match

Rangers held a minute’s silence to honour Fernando Ricksen’s life ahead of Feyernoord match

‘I think we have to try and show that when we are here at Ibrox,’ said the Rangers boss. ‘It’s what the fans demand and what I’m all about. That was the majority of the gameplan. A lot of these teams in Europe play at a lower intensity, it’s more possession based.

‘They move from A to B, the idea was to take them out the comfort zone and the players did that fantastically well. They deserve all the praise.’ The winning goal came from a terrific Sheyi Ojo striker in 23 minutes. 

One of a number of fine performers in blue Feyenoord pushed and probed for a late equaliser in an edgy and nervous end to the game and it was then goalkeeper Allan McGregor came into his own. By then the game should have been done. 

A banner which read: 'A warrior until the end. Rest easy Fernando' was held aloft by fans

A banner which read: ‘A warrior until the end. Rest easy Fernando’ was held aloft by fans

James Tavernier had already struck the post with a penalty, the excellent Scott Arfield smashing a ferocious shot off the crossbar. As the Rangers keeper made one late save after another the opening night of the Europa League proved a tougher gig than it might have been. 

The goal was a reward for the home side’s high intensity pressing game. In the second half Feyenoord finally posed a threat, but in those opening 45 minutes they were all over the place.

Orkun Kokcu’s rushed slack pass in his own half was typical of the panic, the loose ball slipped out by Glen Kamara towards the left side. Feyenoord right back Karsdorp still looked favourite to win a 50/50 tackle with Borna Barisic but came off second best. As the ball broke to Ojo the Croatian full-back demanded the ball back. Rightly, the on-loan Liverpool winger was having none of it.

A thudding left foot strike from 20 yards flashed past keeper Kenneth Vermeer giving him no chance. It was a goal Rangers richly deserved and Ibrox erupted.

The regret was the failure to add more goals when the chances came. Some were of the glaring variety.

James Tavernier missing a penalty is as rare as Feyenoord away trips passing off with trouble – and there were more shameful scenes likely to attract UEFA attention here. Yet after ten minutes the Rangers captain suffered an uncharacteristic lapse from 12 yards. 

Ricksen, who played for Rangers for six years, lost his battle with motor neurone disease

Ricksen, who played for Rangers for six years, lost his battle with motor neurone disease

A Barisic corner handled in the area by flapping central defender Edgar Ie, a player given a torrid night by Alfredo Morelos.

Referee Antonio Lahoz had no doubt, instantly awarding the spot kick. Unusually, Tavernier seemed less sure of himself. A low right foot effort was going wide from the minute he struck it, striking the outside of the upright as Ibrox groaned in disbelief.

A missed spot kick could have taken the wind from the Rangers sails. Strangely, they actually moved up a gear.

After 19 minutes Arfield smashed a left foot strike from 12 yards against the bar. It’s still rattling now.

On a night when Ryan Jack, Steven Davis, McGregor and unflappable £3.5million man Filip Helander all had fine displays Alfredo Morelos also had one of his nights. His manage described him as ‘unplayable’ and he wasn’t wrong. He deserved a goal.

He came close twice in 33 minutes, Kenneth Vermeer saving on both occasions. A claim for a penalty seconds later was a waste of energy, yet the Colombian produced a display worthy of Ricksen himsel here.

‘The first 45 was up there with the best he has played for me,’ added Gerrard.

‘I thought he was unplayable. I thought he caused them endless problems and his hold-up play was fantastic. 

Ojo celebrates with team-mate Connor Goldson as they wear their black armbands

Ojo celebrates with team-mate Connor Goldson as they wear their black armbands

‘The only thing his performance didn’t have tonight was a goal.’ How Rangers – and Ojo – failed to add a second in that first half remains an abiding mystery.

From a slack defensive header by Renato Tapia, Ojo produced a moment of terrific feint to send defender Rideciano Haps the wrong way and create a clear shooting chance 12 yards from goal. Somehow the Dutch side’s desperate defending managed to deflect a netbound effort wide of goal.

The truth is that the visitors were clinging on by the seat of their pants. And the supporters were a bigger disgrace than the team. At half-time, a line of stewards and police were subjected to kicks and flailing punches as widespread unrest broke out. It was ugly, unacceptable stuff.

Above and around them sections of Broomloan Stand were empty, a consequence of UEFA punishment against Rangers for racial singing against Legia Warsaw. If Feyenoord escape punishment for the scenes here there’s no justice in the world.

The supporters were fired up and, as they emerged for the second half, so were the team.

There was always the nagging fear that Rangers would rue the failure to take all those first half chances.

The first warning bell tolled two minutes into the second half. From a corner kick Eric Botteghin ran off his marker to get a clear header at goal from a corner. The connection was poor, the ball careering off Goldson and wide for a corner. Banging the turf in exasperation the central defender knew he should have done better.

It needed a fine, sprawling fingertip save from Allan McGregor to prevent an equaliser minutes later and the Rangers keeper earned his corn in a tense, nervy ending to the night. 

Jens Toomstra of Feyenoord competes for the ball with Rangers' Filip Helander in the match

Jens Toomstra of Feyenoord competes for the ball with Rangers’ Filip Helander in the match

Winger Steven Berghius showed outstanding technique to zip an angled low drive towards the bottom left hand corner of goal. Suddenly we had a match on our hands. A game of intriguing cat and mouse.

Feyenoord substitute Luciano Narsingh burst clear on the left, forcing another very decent save from McGregor. Make no mistake, Ibrox was living on its wits.

The roars at the final whistle were borne of relief as much as joy. Desperate to pay homage to Fernando Ricksen Rangers had their tribute.



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