McLeish defends tactical errors after Cup exit

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, has defended the tactical changes that failed to prevent an unexpected Uefa Cup exit on Wednesday.

Alex McLeish, the Rangers manager, has defended the tactical changes that failed to prevent an unexpected Uefa Cup exit on Wednesday.

Despite needing only a point to progress, Rangers lost 2-0 at home to Auxerre to finish fourth in Group F and join Celtic in pre-Christmas European exile.

Three years ago, McLeish inherited the Ibrox hot seat from Dick Advocaat, who also had a knack of employing unexpected tactics on European nights.

But McLeish's attempts to change a system which had functioned perfectly well for more than two months backfired. Zura Khizanishvili was moved from right-back to man-mark Bonaventure Kalou but the Georgian's error-strewn display presented the Ivory Coast marksman with the two goals that won the game.

McLeish said that his reasoning had been based on a performance Khizanishvili had produced in a World Cup qualifier at the start of the season.

He said: "We discussed it at length over a couple of days and I knew that Zura had done man-marking jobs for the Georgian national team against people like Hakan Sukur and Nihat of Turkey and did it extremely well."

Khizanishvili had helped Georgia to an unexpected 1-1 draw in Istanbul but on Wendesday night the 23-year-old struggled. Failure to cut out a ball into the box allowed Kalou to open the scoring in the 10th minute, and a poor header two minutes into the second half enabled the forward to convert a move that sealed Rangers' fate.

McLeish added: "Who knows if it would have worked for us or not if we had got through the first 15 minutes. After that Zura wanted to atone and started to chase the game as well, which left Kalou in dangerous positions."

It was not the first time that Rangers had been dealt a blow by Kalou. He scored what turned out to be the deciding goal for Feyenoord in February 2002 to give the Dutch side a 4-3 aggregate victory in the Uefa Cup.

Khizanishvili's new role had resulted in Fernando Ricksen being removed from his usual place in central midfield but he was back there for the start of the second half. After Khizanishvili's second error, the Dutchman was soon asked to turn himself into a winger. McLeish said: "At the end we tried to get Fernando wide right to get crosses into the box. We messed Fernando about a bit by asking him to play in three positions but we had to keep going in the belief we could get something."

Comments