Featured Photo: David Crawford
Rangers recently finished their UEFA Youth League campaign consisting of some great highs but some tough lows.
Going against the same teams as the senior side, the youth team played brilliantly and outperformed their older counterparts.
Since the competition’s inaugural season in the 2013/14 season, won by Barcelona, Rangers have featured in three editions, all since 2019/20. They also qualified for the 2020/21 competition, but it didn’t take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their first outing of the 2019/20 season, saw a heated affair with Young Boys. A 3-3 draw in the first leg in Switzerland proved enough to see them through on away goals after a 2-2 draw at home. They moved to the second round where a more comfortable tie was on the table with Slovan Bratislava from Slovakia. A 4-1 win on aggregate in that tie pitted them against Atletico Madrid in the playoff round. Unfortunately for the Glasgow side, Atletico triumphed 4-0 in the lone fixture to knock them out. Rangers’ side that night featured the likes of Leon King, Nathan Patterson, Kai Kennedy and Lewis Mayo.
Last season’s run saw them in the domestic champion’s path, once again avoiding the group stage. The first two rounds saw two hammerings as Sweden’s Hammarby IF and Bulgaria’s Septemvri Sofia were swept aside with ease. But, once again, Rangers were bested by Spanish opposition as Sevilla won 1-0 to ship Rangers out of the competition.
The first matchday of this season’s competition saw Rangers fly to the Netherlands where they faced off against Ajax in their opening group A encounter. Lewis MacKinnon grabbed his team’s opening goal but still, it wasn’t enough to erase the two-goal deficit as the young gers lost 2-1 to the Dutch outfit.
For the second matchday, the Bears were at home to Napoli U19. The Italian side hasn’t been doing well in the Campionato Primavera at all this season but still, put up a good challenge to Rangers B. However, it was the home side who triumphed as Mackenzie Strachan struck ten minutes in for the opener, Jason Lindsay got the second and Robbie Ure got the third to take full control of the tie. Rangers had to stop a late surge from the Italians as Rossi got a second, but it was a mere consolation.
A trip down south was next on the cards as the team faced off against Liverpool. An old foe in red, Ben Doak, formally of the Celtic youth system bagged the opposition’s second goal of four as The Reds dispatched their visitors 4-1. Connor Young scored the only goal for Rangers in the 94th minute.
In the reverse fixture though, Rangers proved to be more of a threat to the Scouse team. Three goals this time ultimately saw a loss to David McCallum’s side, but it was a big improvement nonetheless. Lindsay scored from the spot ten minutes in to cancel out Cannonier’s opener. Liverpool then gained a 3-1 lead, but Aaron Lyall and Robbie Ure both finished well to tie the game up. Sadly, for the Glasgow side, Ben Doak scored again with a lovely solo goal to lift his team over the edge at Firhill stadium.
Better fortunes came for Rangers away in Naples, in the form of another 3-2 victory over Napoli. Robbie Ure scored his third goal of the campaign before Zak Lovelace bagged Rangers’ second in the 23rd minute. Rangers looked to be comfortable going into the break, but Napoli’s Spavone scored two in added time to finish the half at 2-2. Seven minutes into the second half though, Lovelace doubled his tally with a penalty. The Italians fought to get back into the game but the gers managed the game well to see out the win.
Looking to capitalise on a fairly successful campaign, Rangers hosted Ajax in the closing game of the group. This was a game the young team would want to put behind them.
Kalokoh opened for Ajax just eight minutes in but a quickfire double from Ross McCausland gave the home side the lead before halftime. Kalokoh then scored his second in added time to tie it up at the end of the half. With a strong first-half performance behind the Glasgow team, they looked to capitalise on what they had just shown. Unfortunately, they could not continue their performance into the second half and in the 56th minute, Kevin Ciubotaru scored an own goal. Van Bohemen got Ajax’s fourth before Chahid quickly followed up with the fifth. The visitors weren’t done there though and Boerhout put the cherry on the icing on the cake as Ajax ran riot in the second half to win 6-2.
A campaign full of highs and lows saw Rangers finish third in the table on six points, five ahead of Napoli but seven behind second-place Ajax.
This was a strong showing from the gers in a difficult group to get out of. They can be proud that they managed to hold their own against top academies.
There were plenty of good performers for Rangers U19 this campaign but one of the main standouts was Robbie Ure. Consistently great for the team in this run he provided five-goal contributions (three goals and two assists) to help his team massively. The 18-year-old was also included in Billy Starks’ Scotland U19 squad alongside teammates Connor Allan and Jack Harkness.
Another player who had some great creative performances was Zak Lovelace. He also made five-goal contributions (two goals and three assists) to pile pressure on opposition defences alongside Robbie Ure.
With this campaign behind them now, the youngsters will look forward and focus on other competitions. The main attention for Rangers B is the lowland league where they currently sit fourth in the table. However, they are only two points off top of the table, Tranent Juniors, with two games in hand.
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