Mols sees Ibrox pain for first time

Click to follow
The Independent Football

A year ago Michael Mols did not even see the moment when Rangers realised yet another Champions' League dream had come to an abrupt end. The Dutch striker was alone in the dressing-room of the Olympic stadium in Munich, doped up to counter the pain of a knee injury which has cast a cloud over his career ever since.

A year ago Michael Mols did not even see the moment when Rangers realised yet another Champions' League dream had come to an abrupt end. The Dutch striker was alone in the dressing-room of the Olympic stadium in Munich, doped up to counter the pain of a knee injury which has cast a cloud over his career ever since.

On Tuesday night, Mols was once again on the outside looking in as the Scottish champions went to the brink of qualification before being abruptly pulled back. Mols never knew how close his team-mates came to qualifying last season as Bayern Munich stole a place from Rangers while the striker was confronting a shattered cruciate ligament. He knew this time, though. Rangers were within 12 minutes of reaching the next phase when Marco Simone's goal for Monaco to make it 2-2 left everyone at Ibrox hurting.

Mols, who had been substituted to protect his knee with half an hour remaining after his goal had given Rangers a 2-1 lead and a foot in the next round, was in the dug-out wrapped up in his tracksuit. When referee Lubos Michel's final whistle blew, the Dutch international sank his face into his hands and cried.

"I really thought we would go through," said Mols yesterday. "We never gave away much and we were creating a lot chances of our own. We should have made it 3-1, but instead it went to 2-2 and after that it was always going to be difficult.

"It was terrible for me to watch from the bench and this is far worse than what happened to us last season. We had enough chances to finish Monaco and we didn't do it. I just can't believe it."

There were a lot of people like that around Ibrox on Tuesday night. Stunned silence enveloped the ground. The Rangers coach, Dick Advocaat, put a brave face on it, but he knew better than any of his players that this, more than any other of their failed campaigns, was a lost opportunity.

"We knew when the group was drawn that it was tough, but when you win your opening two games, including one away to Monaco, you expect to go through. But I've been used to this, it was the same last season at Bayern Munich."

Unlike other occasions, notably towards the end of Walter Smith's long reign, Rangers did not under-achieve. Back then, they either failed to reach the group stage or took hammerings when they did, from the likes of Juventus and Ajax who both thumped Rangers 4-1. Advocaat has changed all of that.

Last season they were squeezed out by Bayern Munich, who went on to reach the semi-finals, and Valencia, the eventual runners-up. This time it was Galatasaray, not on points, or even goal difference, but the decisive 3-2 win for the Turks in Istanbul. What was unusual was the presence of Sturm Graz at the top of Group D. The Austrians looked particularly poor when they were thumped 5-0 by Rangers on the opening night of the group at Ibrox.

Advocaat now has to pick up the pieces and try to mend a season that has become a nightmare, especially at home where Celtic are a real threat to their title. Whether those pieces include Lorenzo Amoruso is uncertain. The Italian's habitual casualness was at fault in Simone's goal and, while Advocaat did not point the finger by naming Amoruso, his comment of "you can't make mistakes like we do at this level" identified the culprit.

What is more, both Mols and Arthur Numan were both scathing of their deposed captain's defending afterwards. "It wasn't necessary," Mols said of the mistake. "At that stage of the game, you just kick the ball away."

Comments