Rangers’ unbeaten run in the Champions League ended emphatically as La Liga side Valencia comfortably won 3-0 at the Estadio Mestalla. 25,000 fans watched on as Roberto Soldado scored just after the half hour mark to give the home side the lead, before doubling Valencia’s lead in the 71st minute, before Tino Costa finished the tie off on 90 minutes.
Rangers only chances came through Steven Naismith, who twice hit the woodwork and lone striker Kenny Miller hit straight at the keeper. Other than that Walter Smith’s ultra defensive tactics, which was supposed to stifle the threat posed by Valencia, failed miserably.
Andrew Gibney in his analysis for STV Sport stated that Rangers’ philosophy was to limit the space between the defenders and midfield, with the whole team following his Walternaccio tactics.
He also stated that at Champions Level, maintaining concentration was vital, and this is where Rangers flopped. At the first goal, keeper Allan McGregor who had been in superb form in recent games, flapped at a cross and Soldado punished him for it. And in the other two goals Soldado and Costa were gifted time and space within the Rangers box to punish them severely.
Walter Smith certainly won’t be happy with the manner in which Rangers lost the game, but he cannot have any complaints as Valencia were dominant and fully deserved all three points.
Steven Naismith said to Sky Sports after the match, “It’s the worst we have played, we didn’t defend great and we didn’t take our chances. That’s pretty much the summary of it.”
The result leaves Rangers third in their group two points behind Valencia, and have to rely on Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United doing them a favour in the remaining two fixtures.
Valencia started the brighter of the two sides, with Juan Mata testing Allan McGregor with a volley which nearly squeezed in at the near post, but the Scottish international keeper turned the ball out for a corner.
McGregor was once again called into action two minutes later, as Ever Banega out muscled Lee McCulloch before hitting a powerful drive, but McGregor got his body behind it and saved well.
Despite Valencia creating the best of the chances early on, Rangers came close to breaking the deadlock as Steven Naismith picked up the ball on the left and hit his right footed shot off the post.
McGregor continued to be a thorn in Valencia’s side as he continued to deny the Spaniards, doing so in acrobatic fashion on 12 minutes, diving at full strength to deny Mata, who had latched onto a pass from Aritz Aduriz.
With Valencia on the attack, Rangers resorted to their usual tactics – nicknamed Walternaccio – as they played with 10 men behind the ball, leaving striker Kenny Miller up front on his own once more.
Rangers used the identical tactics in the first game between the two sides several weeks ago at Ibrox, but this time round Walter Smith’s tactics failed to stop the La Liga side.
On 22 minutes, Valencia came agonisingly close to open the scoring as Aduriz sent his header inches wide of Allan McGregor’s left hand post, after Maurice Edu failed to track his run in the box.
Rangers failed to threaten significantly, but Steven Whittaker reminded Valencia of Rangers’ threat as he ran down the right before earning a corner. Rangers failed to capitalise on the corner and moments later it was Valencia who profited from a set piece on 34 minutes. Mata crossed in from the right, McGregor flapped at the ball and the defence failed to deal with it and Soldado lay in wait and slotted the ball into the goal at the near post.
At the start of the second half, it was Valencia on top once again with Joaquin the main man. However his tempting cross failed to reach one of his team mates, after great link up play with Banega.
Again Rangers had McGregor to thank, as he dived at full stretch to deny Aduriz on 55 minutes.
Valencia stepped up a gear, as the Rangers defence faced wave after wave of attacks. But with Valencia attacking, they left themselves open at the back, and Kenny Miller should have punished them for it, but he struck his shot straight at the keeper.
Joaquin was causing problem for Rangers with his set pieces and once again McGregor was called into action as he tipped over a vicious shot from the Spanish Internationalist.
On 65 minutes, German referee Felix Brych booked his first player of the game as David Albelda went into the book for a foul on Kirk Broadfoot.
Five minutes later and Valencia doubled their lead and it was Soldado who struck once more. Soldado linked up with Mata and was realised through on goal and he struck low and across the face of the goal past McGregor.
Naismith once again struck the woodwork on 82 minutes with a header, Valencia keeper Cesar Sanchez dived on the rebound only to spill it, but there was no Rangers player around to take advantage of the error.
Rangers brought on Kyle Lafferty with minutes to go, but soon after found themselves 3-0 down on 90 minutes. Full back Miguel picked out Tino Costa unmarked at the back post, who latched onto the ball and sent in off the post to seal Rangers’ first defeat of the competition this season.
Valencia line-up: Cesar, Navarro, Costa, Mathieu, Miguel, Albelda, Joaquin (Pablo 84), Mata, Banega (Facundo Costa 70), Soldado (Fernandes 77), Aduriz. Subs not used: Moya, Bruno, Topal, Ramos Jordi Alba.
Rangers line-up: McGregor, Weir, Broadfoot, Papac, Bougherra, McCulloch, Edu (Lafferty 84), Davis, Naismith, Whittaker, Miller. Subs not used: Alexander, Foster, Wylde, Fleck, Little, Hutton.
League Table[table “1” not found /]
Shots on target: Valencia (13) Rangers (1)
Shots off Target: Valencia (8) Rangers (2)
Corners: Valencia (11) Rangers (3)
Fouls: Valencia (10) Rangers (10)
Yellow Cards: Valencia (2) Rangers (0)
Passing Success: Valencia (88%) Rangers (74.9%)
Possession: Valencia (67.1) Rangers (32.9)