3 major talking points as Rangers endure night to forget in Naples after suffering fifth consecutive group stage defeat
The Light Blues continued their horrific Champions League campaign with a 3-0 defeat against Napoli.
Rangers were taught a harsh Champions League lesson by Napoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona but Giovanni van Bronckhorst can take positives from the fact his side stuck to their task and avoided another humiliating defeat.
After a devastating opening 15 minutes, which saw Giovanni Simeone score twice in quick succession, the free-scoring Italians managed to spare the blushes of the Ibrox side by deciding to take their foot off the gas with their work already complete and top spot in Group A all but wrapped up.
The Serie A leaders - without the likes of star striker Victor Osimhen, Georgian ace Khvica Kvaratskhelia and Poland international Piotr Zielinski - blew their ailing opponents apart and did so without coming out of second gear.
Given the ease in which Liverpool ran in SEVEN goals at Ibrox last time out, there were fears pre-match that Luciano Spalletti’s side could do the exact same to a Rangers team severely lacking in confidence.
Van Bronckhorst’s men have been outclassed in almost every match but perhaps rather worringly, they’ve been outfought in every department. Regardless of the quality of opposition they’ve faced, the number of goals conceded has been unacceptable.
This was not the mauling many had predicted. However, that was largely down to Napoli allowing the tempo of their play to dro but they continued to remind the visitors of their attacking threat in occasional second half bursts.
Rangers will return from Naples with dignity still intact and retaining an, albeit slim, chance of snatching third spot. Alfredo Morelos missed a hat-trick of chances, including a tap in, while substitute Antonio Colak headed narrowly wide in the closing stages.
GlasgowWorld reflects on the three main talking points on a difficult evening for Rangers...
Body language hints at major issues
It’s a measure of where Rangers are right now that just avoiding another European hammering is viewed as a positive. There will undoubtedly have been an element of relief from escaping with a 3-0 defeat against this Napoli side given the scoreline after just a quarter of an hour.
Supporters will know there is no shame in losing to one of best teams in the competition at the moment, but the fitness levels of this group of players compared to last season has been seriously alarming.
The Gers were almost a match for anyone last term, beating the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Sporting Braga and RB Leipzig on route to reaching the Europa League final. But a number of players have looked well off the pace at this elite level with fans growing increasingly frustrated by their side’s lack of intensity and effort.
Rangers looked a team devoid of an identity against Napoli and it is starting to have major impact on their domestic form. Is their total lack of belief down to the manager and his coaching staff? Add in the fact that key players such as Tavernier and Lundstram have both been nursing injuries and playing through the pain barrier in recent months due to a lack of squad depth. It’s no real surprise they are struggling to compete against top teams like this.
Yilmaz proves his worth
Van Bronckhorst’s team selection continues to raise eyebrows, but the Light Blues boss will have been pleased with the Champions League debut of left-back Ridvan Yilmaz.
The Turkish international had played just five games all season before tonight, with two of those matches against lower league opposition in the shape of Queen of the South and Dundee.
Viewed by the club as ‘one for the future’, the 21-year-old was handed a surprise start in favour of Borna Barisic and he recovered well from a sluggish start. Yilmaz grew into the contest, particularly in the second half, and will feel he should have had an assist to his name when Morelos somehow missed an absolute sitter from just a few yards out.
The former Besiktas defender supplied a couple of dangerous crosses and despite looking far from the finished article, there was no reason to suggest he shouldn’t be featuring more often going forward.
Gers must avoid ‘worst ever’ tag
The Ibrox side are in danger of being labelled as the WORST ever Champions League group stage team in the history of the competition.
Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb currently hold that unwanted tag when it comes to sides who have suffered six straight defeats with a goal difference of -19 in season 2011/12. A 1-0 defeat against Ajax at Ibrox next week would see Rangers equal that record.
When the groups were drawn over the summer, Rangers knew they were in arguably one of the toughest sections - and so it has proved after losing all five games convincingly, conceding 19 goals and scoring just once so far.
This latest loss in Italy means they face a near impossible task to finish third and secure European football in the new year. It doesn’t get any easier against the Eredivisie champions on matchday six of what has been a disasterous campaign.