Football Carnival in Leipzig

 

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Kenny Miller bamboozles three Red Bull defenders

 

Spew Heevins
By Decord reporter Spew Heevins

It may not have been the result they were looking for but 15,000 travelling Gers fans still made this match a carnival of football as the club made its long-awaited return to the European stage.

They came from every corner of the UK, turning the airways red white and blue in scenes reminiscent of Manchester eight years ago, minus the heavy-handed policing that so blighted that occasion.

As they have been since The Journey Back to the Top began five years ago, these Rangers fans epitomised all that is great about Scottish football as they packed their end of the arena to the rafters after being applauded into the stadium by the Berlin police officers who had given them an honour guard all the way from the airport.

Two sets of raucous fans created an atmosphere more akin to a Champions League semi-final than the glamour friendly this actually was.

As the match kicked off it soon became apparent the Gers were suffering the effects of their long lay off since the turn of the year as they struggled to shake off the ring rust in the opening exchanges.

Class never leaves you though and £2.5m rated centre half Rob Keirnan was the rock on which the early Red Bull attacks foundered.

One particular headed clearance from the Englishman from a dangerous cross into the box put you in mind of Terry Butcher in  his late-80’s pomp.

Around the 15 minute mark Gers began to take control with some slick passing orchestrated by Spanish superstar Jon Toral, making his European debut for the club.

Just as it looked like Red Bull might be succumbing though, the Championship title holders were stunned by a sucker punch delivered by Werner who took advantage of an unfortunate bounce outside the penalty box to round Foderingham before slotting home despite a last-ditch attempt by the impressive Danny Wilson to keep it out.

Ten minutes later and it was 2-0 for Leipzig as Scotsman Oliver Burke, playing against his boyhood heroes, scored a fine second.

Burke will be hoping that he did enough to catch the attention of Mark Warburton and clinch a dream loan move to Ibrox before the transfer window closes.

Just on half time it should have been 2-1 as the mercurial Toral buried a shot behind the keeper. The Gers fans behind the goal wildly celebrated what should have been a vital away goal, but the celebrations were cut short as the ref wrongly ruled it out.

The on field action petered out in the second half as it so often does in glamour friendlies with a glut of substitutions, with Red Bull scoring a further two goals but it hardly mattered to the travelling Gers legions, who were too busy making friends and enjoying the occasion by this stage.

Berlin is famous for its operas, but it won’t have heard singing like this for many a long year.

The UEFA delegate is sure to add in his match report that this sense of occasion, so sorely missed on the continent since Rangers’ financial problems saw them relegated to the bottom tier, is just what the Europa League needs next season.

The beaks at Nyon would be negligent in their duty to the game if they denied the Ibrox giants the opportunity to repeat their heroics of 2008.

The Europa League is a tin pot competition which needs a strong Rangers and as yesterday demonstrated so amply, UEFA would do well to remember that.

 

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