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Rangers manager Walter Smith plays down Champions League expectations

Walter Smith refused to entertain early speculation of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League after Steven Naismith's first-half strike against Bursaspor at Ibrox took the Light Blues top of Group C along with Manchester United.

The Govan club had failed to win their previous 12 Champions League games and lost all three home group games last season, facts which were highlighted in the build-up to the game.

But that changed for the better with Naismith's 18th-minute winner and, after taking a point away to United on match day one, Rangers are joint-top of the table with the Old Trafford side, who won in Valencia.

However, the Rangers boss was quick to dampen down expectations.

"This group will always be a problem for us," Smith said.

"You can't pick up your paper and read about our Champions League record and say it's all changed, it has not.

"Everyone was quick to point to our previous results, then all of a sudden we get a result and you say, 'that's great that you are at the top'.

"After the experience we have had in the Champions League, especially last year, to get a draw at Manchester United and win your first home game, you are delighted about the position you are in but it doesn't change our thoughts in the group.

"We know we have to play particularly well if we are to have any hope of qualifying out of this group.

"We know the difficulties, the next three games are against the two favoured teams in the section.

"I'm sure Manchester United and Valencia would have been most people's favourites to remain in the Champions League so we're just happy to win and gain a little bit of confidence.

"From my point of view the team worked very hard and in the two games we have had we haven't given up any opportunities.

"We will have to remain on top of all the aspects of the game if we are to do anything.

"Everyone knows we have a hard struggle ahead and we look forward to it."

After being heavily criticised for playing five at the back at Old Trafford, Smith was reluctant to take any praise for using the same tactics in the win against the Turkish side.

He said: "If we win the manager is right, if we lose then the manager is wrong.

"I am just happy that we have won, it doesn't matter what anyone feels about me.

"Whatever faults we have, no one can fault our work rate and that's what delights me more than anything.

"I felt we looked solid at Manchester United and we decided to stay with that and we managed to get up the pitch better than at Manchester United.

"I felt we went some way to achieving the right balance but we have still got some way to go yet."

Bursaspor coach Ertugrul Saglam claimed his side deserved to leave Ibrox with a point but claimed Rangers showed that they have a chance of qualifying through to the knockout stages of the competition.

He said: "If you look at the game in general we deserved a draw.

"If you consider that they scored and kept a clean sheet then they deserved to win but overall I think we deserved a draw.

"Manchester United won at Valencia, Rangers got a point at Manchester United and won their first home game.

"So Rangers have proved they are capable of going through to the next round but the other teams have proved that they are just as strong."

"The first goal was a defensive mistake," he added.

"There was bad communication and we didn't perform too well after that.

"But we were happy with the second half, we pressed well and did everything but score a goal, our finishing was poor.

"But it is an indication of how we can perform in this competition and we will get better."

Belfast Telegraph


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