McLeish demands Rangers revival

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The Independent Football

The Scottish champions were twice hauled back to level terms by Porto at Ibrox on Tuesday night but were rewarded for a battling display when Sotirios Kyrgiakos scored the winner with five minutes to go.

It was a far cry from the lacklustre display produced by Rangers at the weekend when they were held to a draw in the Bank of Scotland Premier League by newcomers Falkirk.

Defeats by Aberdeen and Hibernian had already dented their hopes of retaining the title and the result against Falkirk leaves them fifth in the table and trailing leaders Hearts by eight points.

Now McLeish has demanded his players give the rest of the SPL the same treatment they handed out to Porto. He said: "I would like to think that performance could be the catalyst to get us on track at domestic level. We need to go on a sustained run because of the pace Hearts have set.

"I'd like to think the players adopt that attitude and tempo in every game because we are an entirely different team when we play like that. We have had a couple of wake-up calls this season and I have had to kick some people up the backside to get them going again. We took criticism at the weekend and we deserved it. We take collective responsibility."

Barry Ferguson, the Rangers captain, admits the players had words ahead of Tuesday's crucial game. "This is the Champions' League and that is the reason I came back to Rangers. We have been criticised and rightly so in the last two games and we have not produced the goods," he said.

"We were under pressure to give a good performance against Porto and we did that against a decent quality team so I'm delighted for the boys. We sat down on Monday and had a chat about what happened and came out ready."

McLeish admits he took a "calculated gamble" by making sweeping changes to his line-up - a move which surprised the Porto coach, Co Adriaanse.

Jose-Karl Pierre-Fanfan, Thomas Buffel and Nacho Novo were all put on the bench, while Olivier Bernard was handed his debut at left-back and striker Francis Jeffers earned his first start. Peter Lovenkrands was also drafted into the top team, while forgotten man Hamed Namouchi retained his place following his surprise inclusion against Falkirk.

Despite the element of risk, McLeish insists the result justifies the changes. He said: "I know my players better than Mr Adriaanse with all due respect. I needed that type of team on the pitch for that game, without a doubt.

"The result vindicates the selection but I think I'm more informed than some of the people who would have been surprised by that. Myself, Andy Watson, and Jan Wouters know the players, we talk about the tactics and we live or die by them."

Adriaanse commented: "Their line-up was strange and I didn't expect it. I had analysed their last five games but the system had changed and I think Alex took a lot of risk."

Lovenkrands, despite a starring role on Tuesday, still fears McLeish will sell him in January despite helping the team to victory over Porto. "It was a magnificent night," said Lovenkrands. "The fans were absolutely outstanding. I've done all right this season. Last night I was feeling really good and started well with a couple of good touches.

"I have been down in the dumps for a while and it has been hard with the fans. I want to prove myself to them and to be given a standing ovation when I went off means such a lot to me. I don't know what's going to happen when the transfer window opens again. I'm hoping I can stay here for the rest of the season at least. It's my job to make it difficult for the manager to let me go."