RANGERS are unbeaten in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup after a superb first-day showing from the young Light Blues on their tournament debut.
Not used to playing in this format, Gers quickly adjusted and after earning creditable draws with Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin, they turned in an outstanding showing to defeat previously unbeaten Rapid Vienna in their third group match.
Tomorrow, Gers are back in action with two matches in the intermediate stage. At 8.29am UK time, Gers will place the fourth-placed side from Group B, Atlanta United, before at 10.05am UK time, they take on Group A winners Schalke, with their points from those games added to the five they won today.
The tournament structure means the Light Blues are now in a new group, with the aforementioned Schalke and Atlanta, and also Bayern, whom Gers don’t face again having drawn 1-1 with yesterday. Last night, Bayern defeated Schalke 1-0 to move them on to seven points, while Schalke have six (with both obviously having played a game more), Gers have five points and Atlanta three.
Following that, they will go forth either to a placing match if they finish fourth or third, or a semi-final if they are first or second in their group.
Again, all matches will be streamed here on rangers.co.uk and the Official Rangers Facebook page.
Match One: Bayern Munich 1-1 Rangers
RANGERS suffered heartbreak in their opening game of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup this morning with Bayern Munich equalising with just 15 seconds left to play.
Gers acquitted themselves so well against the German giants at the Sindelfingen Glaspalast, and held a half-time lead through Jordan Houston’s strike before Bayern levelled right at the death.
This was Rangers’ debut in the competition, but you wouldn’t have known that in the early stages given the mature performance the young Light Blues side were producing.
Allowing Bayern to have the bulk of the ball, Gers pressing game was so impressive, and that allowed them time and again to regain the ball, break and create opportunities.
Dapo Mebude was especially adept at that, and twice came close to opening the scoring with efforts falling just wide of either post.
Then with four minutes on the clock, good hold-up play from Josh McPake on the edge of the box allowed the ball to break left for Jordan Houston to smash the ball into the back of the net.
It was a deserved goal for Gers against a side vastly more experienced at this format than they were.
The score remained in the Glasgow side’s favour until the interval, and indeed beyond, albeit the pressure from Bayern was beginning to be turned up a notch or two.
Some heroic saves from Lewis Budinauckas in goal for Gers as well as some excellent defending looked to have won the day for Graeme Murty and Peter Lovenkrands’ side, while Cammy Palmer could have sealed the deal, firing a rebounded Kai Kennedy shot over the bar from close range.
But, with 15 seconds left to play, in a bit of a throwback to the painful first-team 1-1 draw between the two back in 1999, Bayern levelled matters.
Gers just couldn’t get the ball far enough away from their own goal and Jahn Hermann pounced to blast home beyond the seemingly unbeatable Budinauckas.
Against a side so used to this format and probably the strongest in the group, this was an excellent showing from Gers and will give them confidence for the matches to come.
Match Two: Rangers 3-3 Hertha Berlin
RANGERS picked up another point in the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup in an entertaining 3-3 draw with Hertha Berlin.
Twice ahead in the game, Gers had to settle for a point in what looks to be a very open and competitive Group A here in Sindelfingen.
It took just two minutes for the Light Blues to go ahead in this one, with the goal coming from Josh McPake. He found himself all alone in the attacking half and composed himself to blast the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
Three minutes later, it was 2-0 to Gers. Defender Lewis Mayo charged down the right wing and showed tremendous strength to hold off his marker before cutting the ball back for Kai Kennedy to slide in and double the Light Blues’ advantage.
McPake came oh-so-close to a second as his shot came off the inside of the post before being cleared to safety, while at the other end, Jordan Houston made a quite remarkable goalline clearance to see the score remain 2-0 to Gers at the interval.
Into the second half, and Hertha weren’t long in pulling a goal back with Dennis Jastrzembski finishing off a break before they equalised soon after with Miralem Ramic blasting home a fine effort.
Gers needed to show character – and they did – making it 3-2 with an excellent goal. After using the wall to good effect, Stephen Kelly played a wonderful one-two with McPake before lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper with just two minutes to go.
It seemed the Light Blues were set for victory, but within seconds of the restart, Jonas Michelbrink leveled matters once again to ensure the two teams shared the spoils.
Match Three: Rangers 1-0 Rapid
RANGERS turned in a stunning performance in their final day one match of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup to defeat previously unbeaten Rapid Vienna.
After earning creditable draws in their first two matches with Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin, Gers proved too strong for a side who had defeated Bayern 4-0 and Hertha 3-0 in their first two games.
Rangers started the game the brighter, dominating the ball and offering Rapid little attacking encouragement, while twice Stephen Kelly came close to opening the scoring with bursting runs down the right before aiming for the opposite corner and seeing his efforts slip just wide.
Kelly then turned provider for Josh McPake, splitting the defence with a wonderful pass but McPake’s first time attempted finish was off-target.
McPake, however, wasn’t to be denied as he opened the scoring with two minutes of the second half played.
Picking up the ball on the right, he did well initially to hold off marker Lukas Sulzbacher before skinning him and ramming the ball into the back of the net with aplomb.
Kelly then came close again with a fine solo run with his final shot coming back off the post before Kai Kennedy forced the goalkeeper into a fine save.
Rapid often threatened but rarely tested goalkeeper Lewis Budinauckas, with much of the credit for that being owed to a superb defensive showing from the young Gers.