Rangers aim to be more than kings for a night
After such a momentous result for Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday, the punning headlines that yesterday roared out from the Scottish newspapers – front and back pages alike – were inevitable and forgivable.
The 3-0 win at Lyons, the champions of France for the last six seasons, was one of the finest scorelines in Europe in the club's history and had arrived, after all, just three weeks after Scotland bagged one of the best results in their own history, beating France in Paris in Euro 2008 qualifying. Hence multiple mentions of "Lyon Kings", "Kings of Lyon" and "Lyon Tamers", as well as "Deja Blue".
Goals from Lee McCulloch, who rammed in a powerful first-half header, Daniel Cousin and DaMarcus Beasley, who both scored on the break in the first eight minutes of the second half, earned Rangers a second win from two games in Group E and a fighting chance of progress to the next round, even with home and away matches against Barcelona next up.
"We are a new team but have shown that we can compete at this level," Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, said. "I am absolutely delighted. The boys worked really hard and deserve great credit for what they achieved. They had to defend well to get the result and they did it."
The parallels between Scotland's European campaign and Rangers' are numerous. Both sides are punching above their weight in formidable groups: Scotland alongside France, Italy and Ukraine; Rangers against Barcelona, Lyons and Stuttgart, the German champions. Both are also producing performances that outstrip the sum of their parts.
Barry Ferguson, captain of Scotland and Rangers, is one common denominator for club and country. McCulloch, right-back Alan Hutton, central defensive veteran David Weir and striker Kris Boyd are four more.
Neither Scotland nor Rangers have the man-for-man quality in their ranks to match their elite opposition. Yet those opponents, like France when losing twice to Scotland, and Lyons on Tuesday, can dominate games but leave with nothing.
Lyons had 62 per cent of the possession, Rangers 38 per cent. Lyons had 24 shots, 10 on target, three rattling the bar, but no goals. Rangers had four shots, three on target, all of them goals. Lyons had 14 corners, Rangers two.
However, this was no fluke. Rangers were tight at the back, where Carlos Cuellar excelled, while Brahim Hemdani in midfield helped protect the defence. Lyons had plenty of potential verve in Juninho Pernambucano, Sidney Govou and Milan Baros, but hurried approach play and nervy finishing meant a night of frustration.
Just as with Scotland though, Rangers' mantra must be that lots of hard work still lies ahead. As Beasley said: "We're not laughing yet, we've not done anything and we haven't qualified."
Results: Barcelona 3 Lyons 0; Rangers 2 VfB Stuttgart 1; Lyons 0 Rangers 3; VfB Stuttgart 0 Barcelona 2.
Remaining fixtures: 23 Oct: Rangers v Barcelona; VfB Stuttgart v Lyons. 7 Nov: Barcelona v Rangers; Lyons v VfB Stuttgart. 27 Nov: VfB Stuttgart v Rangers; Lyons v Barcelona. 12 Dec: Barcelona v VfB Stuttgart; Rangers v Lyons.