The Gers struggled in the first leg of the qualifying match as Royale Union Saint-Gilloise strolled to a fairly comfortable win on the night.
Teddy Teuma gave the hosts the lead in the match as he picked the ball up inside the box and fired a shot that seemed to go right through Jon McLaughlin in goal.
The Light Blues goalkeeper will be disappointed with himself for allowing it to go past him so easily, although there were bodies between him and the eventual goal scorer.
They then doubled their lead from the penalty spot in controversial circumstances as Connor Goldson – despite the ball coming off his teammate from point-blank range – was adjudged to have committed a handball offence in the box after a VAR review.
Whilst the referee could be questioned on that decision and McLaughlin did not cover himself in glory on the first goal, the player who really let Giovanni van Bronckhorst down was James Sands as he was disappointing at centre-back.
Ex-Light Blues attacker Mark Hateley criticised him on BBC Sportsound, saying:
“Sands has been a problem. I think he’s been caught out two or three times. We asked before, is he comfortable being in there? On this showing, we’re right to question it. Union have figured him out.”
He came in as part of the back three to deal with John Souttar’s absence and looked way off the pace during the match. His positional awareness left a lot to be desired and was partly to blame for the opening goal.
Sands got caught sleeping in the box as he failed to notice the player standing behind him from a cross and he was too slow to react and close him down – allowing Teuma to score.
Former Gers man Richard Foster, meanwhile, urged the manager to take the 22-year-old USA international off whilst the score was 1-0, telling BBC Sport:
“I think Rangers need to take Sands off. They can put on King or Davies and go to a four at a back and move Lundstram into midfield, where we know he’s better. I don’t think Kamara does that advanced role as well.”
He then bemoaned the lack of fight on the pitch, saying:
“The worrying thing for me was there was an acceptance about it. The players weren’t getting at each other. They never put in any tackles. There was no-one taking charge of the game. Rangers are more than capable of coming back in this tie, but they’re going to need to do something.”
It would be unfair to place all of the blame on Sands for this but he was in an unnatural position and was unable to command the team from the back as the 2022 arrival was too busy trying to fix his own performance.
Having a natural centre-back, like Souttar, may have injected more fight into the team by imposing themselves on opposition attackers.