Let’s start with the blindingly obvious. Yes, this was a friendly – a notoriously unreliable barometer of what lies in store.
It has to be stated that Real Madrid were also missing half a team here. They also have one week more than Rangers to get themselves ready for the start of their own season.
By any stretch of the imagination, though, this was a hugely impressive display by Steven Gerrard’s side.
Cedric Itten scored the winning goal as Rangers came from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1
But Steven Gerrad’s side equalised through Fashion Sakala before Itten grabbed the winner
Carlo Ancelotti was defeated in his first game back as Real boss since taking over in June
It will count for little by the time they are eyeballing Livingston in their seasion opener on Saturday, of course, but as far as a timely boost to moral is concerned – if any were needed – you could hardly wish for more.
The loss of a soft opening goal aside, there was precious little to fault Gerrard’s side for. They defended better than Real, used the ball more effectively and were smarter when out of possession.
With Ibrox around a quarter full again and bathed in sunshine, this final preparation for Gerrard’s side will last far longer in the memory than most games of this ilk.
You’d give rather more than a penny for Alfredo Morelos’ thoughts on all this. Currently enjoying extended leave in Colombia with his manager unsure when he’ll return, the striker was the last man on anyone’s mind by the time Fashion Sakala and Cedric Itten had cancelled out Rodrygo’s early opener.
What a story Sakala looks like being. From poverty in Zambia to scoring a goal against the most decorated club in the world, this day alone was quite a chapter.
Rodrygo had opened the scoring for the LaLiga side in the eighth minute of the friendly
The display of the former Oostende player capped a fine day for Gerrard – one which saw a total of 21 players take the park and the mighty Real Madrid defeated. It all bodes well for the newly crowned champions.
For all their European Cup triumphs at Hampden against Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960 and Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 are among Madrid’s most celebrated, they have actually been an infrequent visitor to the city.
This was, in fact, the first time Los Blancos had set foot in Ibrox since September 1963 when Ferenc Puskas scored the winner three minutes from time ahead of a six-goal demolition in the second leg in Spain.
Carlo Ancelotti’s absentee list was considerable with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema nowhere to be seen. It was left to the likes of Marcelo, Luka Jovic and Isco to sprinkle the magic dust.
One week ahead of the start of the defence of their title, Gerrard fielded a near full-strength side which afforded further run-outs for new signings John Lundstram and Sakala.
Irrespective of the opposition, pre-season matches can often lack bit and intensity – even more so when the temperature feels more like Spain than the south side of Glasgow.
Yet this was anything but a pedestrian affair. Seeking to win back the Spanish title and with Ancelotti back at the helm, Madrid were not in town to swan about ahead of La Liga’s restart on August 13.
They were ahead inside eight minutes through a sweeping counter attack. Martin Odegaard showed wonderful feet and vision to release Rodrygo on the left. With the Rangers’ defence unwilling to engage with him, the Brazilian bobbed and weaved then finished exquisitely beyond Allan McGregor with a poke with his right boot.
There were, however, chances aplenty for Gerrard’s team to level before the break.
Ianis Hagi caused the Spaniards problems as he and Ryan Kent combined in attack
Connor Goldson, who’s set to sign a new long-term deal, had a header kicked off the line with the lively Sakala forcing Real keeper Andriy Lunin into the first of many saves with his feet.
Ryan Kent looked like a player preparing to pick up where he left off last season. Victor Chust, the Madrid central defender, came off second best in his joust with the winger here and fell victim to a nutmeg that had Ibrox in raptures.
The only blot on the Englishman’s copybook was when he struck the underside of the bar from six yards when it was much easier to score.
The chance had come through Scott Wright capitalising on Marcelo’s error with Sakala providing the link.
Ianis Hagi warmed to the task against the side his father Gheorghe played for between 1990 and 1992.
Having seen his free-kick acrobatically beaten away by Lunin, he had the composure to tee up Kent for fierce a low drive which the Ukrainian did well to get anything on.
The man who has the unenviable task of dislodging Thibaut Courtois from Ancelotti’s side this season, Lunin was Madrid’s best performer by some distance here. John Lundstram was the latest to find him on imperious form just before the break.
Nacho was sent off in the 75th minute for a second booking after a high tacle on Glen Kamara
Sakala left him without a prayer 10 minutes after the restart, though. Introduced at the interval, Glen Kamara gabled and stole the ball high up the park. The Zambian was onto it in a flash, taking two touches to advance and crashing the ball beyond Lunin with his third.
Amid a flurry of second half substitutes, an engaging game rather lost its rhythm. Miguel Gutierrez, the Madrid sub, struck the outside of the post but it would have been extremely harsh on Gerrard’s side.
Itten gave the score a far more accurate sheen with a sumptuous right-foot finish from an angle with 13 minutes remaining after Real had laboured to clear their lines.
Ancelotti’s side ended the game with 10-men after Nacho picked up a second booking for a high tackle on Kamara.