Champions League: How calm Giovanni van Bronckhorst ended Rangers' 12-year wait

By Martin WattBBC Scotland
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his staff erupt in joy as Rangers defeat PSV Eindhoven
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his staff celebrate as Rangers defeat PSV Eindhoven

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's unflappable demeanour finally dissolved at full-time in Eindhoven, as the Rangers manager erupted in joy and bounced in ecstatic unison with his backroom team.

It was an outpouring of emotion after the Dutchman had calmly and adroitly negotiated every obstacle thrown his way on a night of Champions League high drama.

From his bold decision to exile striker Alfredo Morelos from the squad, to a barrage of PSV chances as Van Bronckhorst's underdogs weathered a storm then landed a killer blow.

Even the journey to the Philips Stadion turned into farce as hordes of PSV fans blocked the Rangers team bus and caused them to arrive 20 minutes late.

The Scottish side's request to Uefa to have kick-off delayed was rejected, but they blanked out the chaos and delivered a composed and unflinching performance in their manager's image.

It allowed Van Bronckhorst to be "more relaxed than last week because of the way we played".

Antonio Colak - the striker keeping Morelos out of the team - scored for the fifth time in six matches to settle a tight tie 3-2 on aggregate and propel Rangers back to the group stage for the first time in 12 years.

The significance resonated with Van Bronckhorst as Rangers completed their recovery from financial implosion and life in Scotland's bottom tier in 2012.

"It is a very proud moment," he said. "I know what it means for the fans, for the club, to be playing in the highest level in Europe, competing with the best teams.

"We're here to compete. We want to compete with the best teams in Europe. It will be difficult but it's an experience I will love.

"It comes close to being the best moment [of my career] because of where Rangers have come from. Ten years ago we were at our lowest point and it has taken a lot of work, energy and time from a lot of people to build the club back to this level."

'Sensational evening for Rangers & their manager'

Having stunned some of the continent's best on the run to last season's Europa League final, Van Bronckhorst's side have scaled a memorable new high.

They have done it the hard way, too, overhauling a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Union St-Gilloise in the previous round before edging past a PSV side heavily fancied after last week's 2-2 Ibrox draw. Not least because Rangers' previous 11 away trips in Europe had yielded just one win.

The build-up to their Eindhoven mission was tainted by the Morelos controversy, with the Colombia international left out for attitude and fitness reasons.

It was a decision that could have backfired on Van Bronckhorst, but his instead further enhanced his reputation, says former Rangers team-mate Neil McCann.

"Van Bronckhorst as a manager is like a mirror image of the guy I played alongside," McCann told Sportsound. "Very considered, quiet, calm, very rarely got flustered.

"He wasn't soft, could stick his foot in - and he has stuck his foot in with the brave decision to leave Morelos at home. Van Bronckhorst has earned brilliant stripes to take this side into the Champions League."

Fellow former Ibrox forward Steven Thompson added: "It's just a phenomenal result. It means so much to the club, to the players, to Van Bronckhorst.

"He has won this competition as a player [with Barcelona] and now to take Rangers into the group stage as manager is incredibly special for him. It's sensational evening for him and for Rangers."

What now for Morelos? As Rangers players crowd round the TV on Thursday to discover their group-stage opponents, will the Colombian be warmly welcomed?

His future remains in doubt, with less than a year to run on his contract, but Van Bronckhorst refused to wash his hands of the player.

"Morelos qualified for the Champions League as well," he said. "I think he is also proud to see his team-mates and club qualify for the biggest competition in the world.

"He is still a Rangers player and I will push him the way I can to get him fit and get the Morelos back we all want."

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