Rangers impress Club Brugge manager with their performance in Europa League
Club Brugge manager Philippe Clement has praised Rangers for their impressive display in the Europa League last 16, where they held the Belgian champions to a 1-1 draw at Ibrox on Thursday. Clement, who played for Coventry City in the Premier League, said he was impressed by the quality and intensity of Steven Gerrard’s side, who are unbeaten in domestic and European competitions this season.
“Rangers are a top European team and they deserve respect,” Clement said after the match. “They have a lot of quality players, a lot of experience and a lot of hunger. They play with a lot of intensity and they are very well organised.”
Clement admitted that his team struggled to cope with Rangers’ pressure and pace, especially in the first half, where they conceded a penalty that was converted by James Tavernier. He said he was happy with the reaction of his players in the second half, where they equalised through Bas Dost and created some chances to win the game.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we didn’t expect it to be so hard in the first half,” he said. “We were not good enough in possession, we lost too many balls and we gave them too much space. We were lucky to be only 1-0 down at half-time.”
“In the second half, we showed more character and more quality. We scored a good goal and we had some opportunities to score a second one. But we also have to give credit to Rangers, who defended very well and were dangerous on the counter-attack.”
Club Brugge face uphill task to reach quarter-finals
The result leaves Club Brugge with a difficult task to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League, as they will have to score at least one goal and avoid defeat at the Jan Breydel Stadium next week. Clement said he was confident that his team could turn the tie around, but he also acknowledged that Rangers were a formidable opponent.
“We are still alive and we have a chance to go through,” he said. “We have shown that we can play better than we did in the first half and we have to believe in ourselves. But we also have to be realistic and recognise that Rangers are a very strong team and they have a lot of experience in this competition.”
Clement said he was not surprised by the level of Rangers, who have reached the last 16 of the Europa League for the second consecutive season. He said he had watched their previous games and he was aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
“I have a lot of respect for Rangers and for Steven Gerrard, who is doing a great job as a manager,” he said. “I have followed their games and I have seen that they have a lot of quality and a lot of confidence. They have a clear identity and a clear way of playing. They have some weaknesses, like every team, but they also have a lot of strengths.”
Rangers aim to make history in Europa League
Rangers, who have already clinched their 55th Scottish Premiership title, are aiming to make history in the Europa League, as they have never reached the quarter-finals of the competition in its current format. Gerrard said he was proud of his players for their performance against Club Brugge, but he also warned them not to be complacent in the second leg.
“I thought we were outstanding from start to finish,” Gerrard said. “We played with a lot of courage, a lot of belief and a lot of quality. We created a lot of chances and we could have scored more goals. We also defended very well and we limited them to very few opportunities.”
“But we are only halfway through the tie and we know that Club Brugge are a very good team. They have a lot of experience and a lot of quality. They showed that in the second half, when they scored a good goal and they put us under some pressure. We have to be ready for a tough game next week and we have to finish the job.”
Gerrard said he was delighted with the support of the fans, who gathered outside the stadium to celebrate the team’s achievements. He said he hoped to reward them with more success in the Europa League.
“The fans have been incredible and they have given us a lot of energy and motivation,” he said. “They have been with us all the way and they deserve all the credit. We want to make them happy and we want to make history in this competition. We have a big opportunity and we have to take it.”