RANGERS have earned a fourth-placed finish on their first-ever visit to the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup.
After an impressive first day with draws against Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin and a defeat of Rapid Vienna, the opening to day two saw Gers with work to do after a 3-2 reverse to Atlanta United.
That defeat meant they would have to see off an impressive Schalke 04 side to progress to the semi-finals, and that’s exactly what they did with an excellent performance to secure a 2-0 success.
Unfortunately, Gers again ran in to Rapid Vienna in the semi-finals, and they opened up a 3-0 lead before half-time. To their credit, Gers fought back twice to make it 3-2 and then the final scoreline of 4-3, while they were unlucky not to level matters late-on.
That meant a third-place play-off match with Bayern who, this time, were too strong and won the game 2-0 to leave Gers a creditable fourth on their tournament debut, with the Light Blues extremely competitive in every match they played.
Day Two Recap
Match 4 – Atlanta United 3-2 Rangers
RANGERS suffered their first defeat of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup this morning, cruelly going down to Atlanta United who won the game with the last kick of the ball.
After impressively controlling the match, Gers just couldn’t take their chances but it is still in their own hands to qualify with a win over Schalke in their final game being enough to take them through.
Gers opened the game with a decent opening for Cammy Palmer with his shot going just wide but it was Atlanta who took the lead on two minutes with Alessandro Castro using the wall for a rebound before netting a decent finish into the far corner.
The Light Blues responded well and drew themselves level within two minutes as after a neat move, the ball broke to Palmer who slewed a neat shot beyond the goalkeeper from just outside the area.
But again, Atlanta fought back, and after making a great initial save, Nicky Hogarth in goal was beaten again for Gers with Will Vint there to net for the MLS side.
Chances came for Dapo Mebude and Jordan Houston before the interval, but both brought out decent stops from the United goalkeeper.
Into the second half, and again, Gers were in control with the bulk of the ball, and Josh McPake came close, shooting just wide after Stephen Kelly took a quick corner.
Time looked to be ticking down on the Glasgow club, but with just over two minutes left, Kelly leveled matters once again after a super combination with Palmer down the left wing.
Twice Mebude had chances to win the game after that with a pair of snapshots, but with the last kick of the game, Atlanta claimed the victory.
Evangelo Spartiatis was able to get a shot away beyond the reach of Hogarth with just seconds to go to bring the Americans back into play in the competition.
With one game to go each, the Group B standings and points are as follows…
- Bayern Munich – 7
- Schalke 04 – 6
- Atlanta Utd – 6
- Rangers – 5
With Atlanta facing Bayern in the next game, regardless of the result there, a win for Gers over Schalke will be enough to take them through as one of the top two sides in the group.
Match 5 – Rangers 2-0 Schalke 04
RANGERS are through to the semi-finals of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup following a tremendous defeat of Schalke 04 in their final group match this morning.
Knowing a win would take them through, Gers were so controlled in the match and netted twice in the second half through Lewis Mayo and Josh McPake to set up yet another meeting with Rapid Vienna.
While there was no doubt the Light Blues were the better team in the first half, it was a rather cagey affair although goalkeeper Lewis Budinauckas showed tremendous bravery to dive and collect the ball at the feet of a kicking attacker in the opening minutes.
At the other end, Cammy Palmer came close with a header while Jordan Houston had a shot charged down with it looking destined for the back of the net.
Into the second half, and Gers really began to force the issue, with Stephen Kelly seeing an effort stopped in its path early on.
Then, with 12 minutes showing on the clock, Rangers took the lead. After a scramble from a Kelly corner, Josh McPake was twice denied by the goalkeeper before defender Lewis Mayo steamed in to force the loose ball into the back of the net.
It was superb stuff from the young Gers, and after twice Dapo Mebude was denied, things got even better as they went 2-0 into the lead.
This time Mayo became the provider, powering through midfield before laying the ball off to McPake to bury the ball and bury the match for Gers.
Semi-Final – Rangers 3-4 Rapid Vienna
RANGERS’ hopes of lifting the Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup are over despite a supreme effort against a hugely impressive Rapid Vienna side in this morning’s semi-final.
Trailing 3-0 at half-time, Gers pulled the game back to 3-2 and then 4-3, with only a pair of outstanding saves from Nikolas Polster in goal for the Viennese club denying the young Light Blues a leveler.
Gers began the match brightly, with Lewis Mayo shooting just wide of the target early on, but then Rapid took over control of the game.
Some loose defensive play from Gers left goalkeeper Lewis Budinauckas stranded out of his goal allowing Lion Schuster the chance to open the scoring with a guided effort from distance.
Rangers tried to respond by committing men forward, but that allowed Yusuf Demir the chance to score at the end of a break for the Austrains.
Dapo Mebude and Danny Finlayson had efforts blocked before right on half-time, Rapid made it three with Melih Ibrahimoglu finishing off a fine solo run.
Half-time gave Gers the chance to regroup, and within a minute of the restart, they had pulled two goals back.
Lewis Mayo grabbed the first as he turned home a Stephen Kelly cutback before from kick-off, Gers intercepted and Dapo Mebude volleyed a fine effort home.
A further blow was dealt to the Light Blues with Daniel Markl making it 4-2 with the aid of a deflection, but again Mebude scored straight from kick-off, running forward and finishing well into the bottom corner.
Somehow, Gers were denied a leveler with Polster first making a good stop from Josh McPake, but as that deflected off his defender, the goalkeeper incredibly rose to get a hand to the ball to prevent the equaliser.
He was then called on again to make a great stop from Palmer low to his right, while at the other end, with Gers chasing, Jordan Houston had taken over in goal and he got back to tip the ball over the bar as Rapid again threatened from distance.
But it wasn’t to be for Gers this time despite their very best efforts.
Third-Place Play-Off – Rangers 0-2 Bayern Munich
RANGERS gave it one hell of a go against Bayern Munich in their quest to medal on their Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup debut, but it wasn’t to be with the Germans proving just too strong.
They scored either side of half time in a tetchy game where both teams had a man in the sin-bin, and while Gers did have their chances, they weren’t able to take them to finish the weekend in fourth position.
Dapo Mebude, Josh McPake and Jordan Houston both had decent opportunities early on for the Scots, while at the other end, goalkeeper Nicky Hogarth was having a fine game in nets with a string of super stops.
Gers were dealt a blow on five minutes with Danny Finlayson sin-binned for a rash tackle, but just as his two-minute ban was about to end, Bayern had Daniel Jelisic sent there too for a hack on Cammy Palmer.
The Light Blues then had the ball in the net thanks to a Lewis Mayo header, but the referee judged he had impeded the goalkeeper in doing so.
Then, with seconds to go before the break, Bayern took the lead. Ryan Johansson grabbed the goal, breaking clear and then staying composed to round Hogarth.
McPake had a great chance to level following some super work from Dapo Mebude down the right but the goalkeeper came to Bayern’s rescue.
Just as it seemed Gers may level, Anderrsson Timossi made it two for the Germans with a driven effort.
Both Stephen Kelly and Cammy Palmer had opportunities to reduce the deficit, but couldn’t take them as Gers ended the tournament in a respectable fourth place.