Rangers’ victory over Real Madrid showed that they are serious

The results do not matter during the pre-season, but performance does.

That was the message from Rangers boss Steven Gerrard after their defeat to Tranmere Rovers just a few weeks ago.

He wanted his players to know that despite the goalless nature of the motley squad of friendly matches they had lined up, he expected them to deliver more of the form that led them to a historic Premiership title last season.

“People jump out of the way of tackles, people are soft and weak. I can not tolerate that, “he suspected, after Kieron Morris’ strike left them in a humble defeat in Merseyside.

“The big picture is that results are not important right now, but the takeaway is that we need to improve.”

Well, his players really responded. A draw with Brighton and Arsenal reflected their dramatically improved performances, but they saved best for last when Real Madrid came to Ibrox – and left with their tails between their legs.

A 2-1 victory for Gerrard’s team may not mean much at face value. 16 total exchanges tracked the game’s rising flow, and neither side was close to full strength. But 21 shots against five in favor of the Ibrox team quite reflects an achievement that was much closer to Gerrard’s expectations and may even have exceeded them.

Despite the burning Glasgow heat (seriously), Gerrard’s team refused to let go for a second, charging every 50/50 as if it were their last and showing no respect at all for the 13-inch European champions.

? @ryankent pic.twitter.com/lL5I7aOCt9

– Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) July 26, 2021

The big gap in fitness was obvious – Rangers are much longer in their preparations for the season than Real – but the quality gap between John Lundstram and Martin Odegaard should have compensated for that. It did not.

It may have just been a friendly, but the hunger shown by the Ibrox side cast a frightening shadow on anyone who hoped they would crumble in defense of their Premier League title in the coming months.

Lundstram and newcomer Fashion Sakala, goal scorer for the equalizer, look like inspired additions to a side that are already firm favorites to look up a transitional Celtic team and lift the title again in May.

But to conquer Ange Postecoglou’s accusations is the least expected, and on evidence of what we have seen so far, Gerrard has every right to demand more. Failure in the domestic cups has been one of the major critics of his spell on Ibrox, and he will want to see it end in 2021/22.

FULL: Rangers 2-1 Real Madrid

Mode Jr & Cedric Itten with the goals on Ibrox.

An impressive team performance in our last match before the season. pic.twitter.com/bGRWDtJWvs

– Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) July 25, 2021

And then there is the Holy Grail in the Champions League, which Rangers hope to reach the group stage for the first time in more than a decade. It is Malmö or Helsinki first up in the third qualifying round, and it will be a different intensity than the one when the first stage starts in either Sweden or Finland next week.

On evidence of what we’ve seen so far, but over the last 12 months, and over their steadily improving pre-season performances, Rangers should expect a lot from themselves during the defining season ahead.

We will learn more from their Ibrox meeting with Livingston this weekend than we could ever have from a left-handed season with Real Madrid. But that’s not to say that Rangers fans can’t just be a little happy after a show that justified their eyebrow wins every time.

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