Rangers ended their pre-season in impressive fashion, coming from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their final friendly ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Premiership opener.
Steven Gerrard’s side looked sharp and dangerous in attack throughout the first half. Summer signing Fashion Sakala carved out numerous chances in the opening 45 minutes, while Ryan Kent hit the underside of the crossbar.
However, it was Real Madrid who went in ahead after Rodrygo’s (8) early goal – their only shot of the opening period.
But ten minutes after the break, Sakala finally scored the goal he deserved (55), powering home past Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin and introducing himself to the Rangers fans in superb style.
The visitors’ evening was about to get worse too. Nacho was sent off for a second yellow (75), with Cedric Itten (77) firing a thunderous effort home two minutes later to seal a deserved victory for Rangers.
It will be an ominous warning for the other Scottish Premiership sides as Rangers begin their title defence on Saturday against Livingston, live on Sky Sports.
How Rangers saw off Real Madrid
Rangers were the better side from the off, and should have opened the scoring twice inside three minutes. Firstly, John Lundstram found Sakala in the middle after a driving run down the right wing, but the latter did not make the right contact. It was Sakala again moments later, but his fierce volley flashed across the face of goal.
Real’s only chance of any note in the first half saw them find the net. It was a quickfire break that caught Rangers out, with Martin Odegaard driving down the field. He then slotted in Rodrygo to his left, who managed to skip through the blue shirts ahead of him before slotting home past Allan McGregor.
How Rangers and Real Madrid lined up
- Rangers first half XI:McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Davis, Lundstram, Wright, Hagi, Kent, Sakala.
- Rangers subs used:Arfield, Kamara, Simpson, Itten, Middleton, Bassey, Patterson, Jones, Kelly and Balogun.
- Real Madrid starting XI:Lunin, Nacho, Marcelo, Vazquez, Jovic, Odriozola, Odegaard, Isco, Rodrigo, Blanco, Chust.
- Real Madrid subs used:Arribas, Gutierrez, Park, Gila and Dotor.
Rangers should have equalised almost immediately with two superb chances. They were awarded a free-kick on the right of the area, with Connor Goldson seeing a powerful header saved from the delivery. Just after, Kent drove down the left, but his effort on the angle was well saved by Andriy Lunin.
Rangers continued to see chances fall their way – Kent and Sakala in particular going close – and the former should have equalised just before the half an hour.
It was a sensational break from Rangers, the lively Scott Wright driving into the area before cutting the ball back for Sakala in the middle. His attempted shot was scuffed, but landed kindly to the waiting Kent at the back post. However, his strike pinged off the underside of crossbar before going wide.
Rangers had 17 shots in the first half, and ten minutes after the break, they finally found the net. Sakala had impressed throughout, and nabbed his first goal for the club as he hammered the ball past Lunin. Glen Kamara had done superbly in the build-up too, battling against Lucas Vazquez to slot Sakala through.
Soon after, there were a raft of changes on both sides which altered the complexion of the game, but Real stalwart Nacho had few excuses when he was shown a second yellow card in the 75th minute. He caught Kamara high on the thigh with his studs up and, having already been booked, was shown a red.
Two minutes later, Rangers nabbed their deserved equaliser. It was a superb finish for Itten’s third pre-season goal, waiting for the ball to bounce in the right spot before thundering the ball home into the far corner to round off an impressive performance from the hosts.
Gerrard pleased after friendly double-header
Speaking to Rangers TV, manager Steven Gerrard said: “First and foremost, we deserved the win and we have been excellent over the whole weekend.
“Obviously, it was two different teams for obvious reasons, but every single person over the course of the two 90 minutes has been excellent and they have given me a lot to think about in the two days in terms of picking teams for real next week.
“We have got valuable minutes into important players and we have shown a level out of possession that I really like – our speed across the grass, our aggression and moving together as a unit in our shape, I am really happy with that and yesterday, we did a lot of things right but we missed a little bit of magic in the final third in terms of our outcomes, but today, we found that magic.
“It was two great finishes from the boys and they will get a lot of plaudits, but for me, I am more pleased with the two performances from everyone over the weekend.”
Rangers kick off their Scottish Premiership title defence on Saturday when they host Livingston, live on Sky Sports Football; kick-off 1.30pm. Real Madrid are back in friendly action on Sunday 8 August when they play AC Milan. They begin their La Liga campaign on Saturday 14 August away to Alaves.