YES, it was only a pre-season friendly, but this was a mightily impressive showing from Rangers this afternoon against an extremely strong Marseille outfit.
A Daniel Candeias double and goals from Nikola Katic and Jermain Defoe secured a very comfortable win as Gers continue to build towards the league season in three weeks’ time.
Coming between the two Europa League qualifiers with St Joseph’s, Gers having won the first leg in Gibraltar 4-0 on Tuesday, boss Steven Gerrard opted for a strong starting XI against one of European football’s biggest names.
Rangers could have been forgiven, given the quality of the opposition, for sitting back and feeling their way into the match, but instead they got on the front foot immediately, with the midfield trio of Ryan Jack, Joe Aribo and Steven Davis impressing.
Alfredo Morelos might have done better with a header on the end of a superb, chipped cross from James Tavernier before the Colombian shot wide of the far post from a tight angle after being played through by Jack.
On 17 minutes, however, Gers took the lead. Pressing the ball high up the park, Aribo robbed Florian Thauvin around 30 yards from goal and slipped the ball right for Morelos.
With two ‘Les Olympiens’ defenders in front of him, he spotted the run of Daniel Candeias to his right, with the Portuguese winger taking Morelos’ pass in his stride and lashing it superbly into the back of the net.
Marseille did come into the game more as the half progressed, but they were unable to really test Allan McGregor, with their best opportunity being a wicked shot from Dimitri Payet which whistled just wide.
Jack fired wide at the other end for Gers, while Jordan Jones had a shot saved by Steve Mandanda as he slid in to get on the end of a Jack cross just beyond the penalty spot.
Two minutes before half-time, Rangers deservedly doubled their lead with an early contender for the goal of the season prize.
Spotting Daniel Candeias making a run in-behind the Marseille defence, from the halfway line, Ryan Jack picked out the Portuguese, but he still had so, so much to do.
Candeias brought down Jack’s floated ball with his right foot on the edge of the area, and in the same move, blasted home beyond the oncoming Mandanda with his left.
It was a stunning, stunning piece of skill from the winger, with the 2-0 score at the break being a fair reflection on the balance of play to that point.
Despite there being five changes in blue at the interval, the one-way traffic towards the Marseille goal continued, with Mandanda denying Jermain Defoe with an excellent, close-range save before Tavernier blasted the rebound into the Copland.
Sheyi Ojo also shot into the stand as he tried to curl an effort round Mandanda before goal number three arrived on 62 minutes.
A Ojo corner was headed goalwards by Nikola Katic, which despite the best efforts of Mandanda, looked to cross the line though Connor Goldson steamed in to force the ball into the back of the net in any case.
Katic should have had another soon after, nodding an Andy Halliday free-kick over at the back post, while Mandanda made a top save to push a goal-bound Greg Docherty shot round the post.
This was truly impressive stuff from Gers, and Halliday himself then came close with a looping effort which landed just over the net, and then on 75 minutes, Jermain Defoe made it 4-0 with a wonderful diving header.
James Tavernier found Sheyi Ojo in the right channel, and his ball was perfect for Defoe to leap through the air and nod beyond Mandanda.
Wes Foderingham made a fine save from a Luiz Gustavo free-kick late-on to preserve the clean sheet on an excellent afternoon for Rangers.
RANGERS: McGregor (Foderingham, 45), Tavernier (Barjonas, 76) Goldson (Mayo,82), Edmundson (Katic, 45), Barisic (Halliday, 65), Jack (Polster, 65’), Davis (Docherty, 45), Aribo (Kamara, 65’), Candeias (Ojo, 45), Morelos (Defoe, 45), Jones (Murphy, 65).
SUB NOT USED: Firth.
OLYMPIQUE DE MARSEILLE: Mandanda, Amazi, Caleta-Car, Gustavo, Germain, Kamara, Payet, Sakai, Sanson, Strootman, Thauvin.
SUBS: Ake, Dia, Khaoui, Khetir, Lihadji, Ali Mohamed, Ngapandouetnbu, Nkounkou, Perrin, Rocchia, Sarr, Sertic, Vanni.
REFEREE: Mr Bobby Madden