Rangers have moved to within a point of playing knockout football in Europe for the first time since 2011.
Steven Gerrard’s men know a draw at home to Young Boys in a fortnight’s time will secure their passage to the Europa League round of 32 after leaving Rotterdam this evening with a 2-2 draw against Dutch giants Feyenoord, now managed by a familiar face.
Dick Advocaat, who previously spent four seasons in Scotland’s largest city and won two championships guiding The Gers, couldn’t get the better of his former club like he did in the 2008 Uefa Cup final.
Back then “The Little General” was managing an exciting Zenit Saint Petersburg side that included Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak, but this evening the star on show was undoubtedly Alfredo Morelos, who bagged a brace.
The 23-year-old Colombian marksman has been nothing short of a revelation since moving to Rangers from HJK Helsinki in July 2017 for a reported £1m, which is looking very much a steal with each passing game.
“No – and you can add another £10m on as well,” his manager Gerrard recently said when asked if he’d accept £40m for Morelos in the next window.
Heading into this showdown at De Kuip he’d bag 70 goals across 117 appearances for the Glaswegian outfit. No fewer than 22 of those strikes had come this season, and three of those in the Europa League group phase.
Given he scored in three consecutive matches coming into matchday five, Morelos was on the cusp of making history. Never before had a Rangers player scored in four successive games in Europe, which is incredible when you consider the calibre of goalscorers they possessed before him.
Feyenoord, whose defence has been shaky all season (averaging 1.4 goals conceded per game in all competitions), had been warned.
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“People will look at Morelos’ scoring record and assess him on that. That’s an easy way to talk about him — but it doesn’t tell the full story of his talent,” former striker (and ex-Celtic man) Pierre van Hooijdonk told SunSport this week.
“Morelos is a handful — a pain in the a** for every defender he comes up against. He turns, he twists, he uses his body and his a** all the time. He is so strong, he is difficult to play against — and he can also finish. Look at Rangers’ Europa League games. Every defender has struggled against him.
“Morelos just doesn’t leave you alone and he has scored a lot of big goals for the club. He is young and I sometimes feel he can take an extra half-second to breathe in front of goal. But he’ll learn that as he gets older and I think he will become even more prolific than he is now.”
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) November 28, 2019
Morelos would see his side go a goal behind just after the half-hour mark when Jens Toornstra put the hosts in front. Gerrard on the touchline expected a response, which he duly received eight minutes after the break when that man Morelos converted a Ryan Kent cross. The Buffalo, as he’s affectionately called, wasn’t done yet.
Just moments later Ibrox’s latest scoring hero repeated the same trick, but this time he headed home Borna Barisic’s ball into the penalty area. His brace means he’s registered 17 goals in Europe for Rangers, which moves him ever closer to Ally McCoist’s club record of 21.
He may have not known or realised at the moment, but Morelos’ second of the game saw him create a piece of Scottish history. If we include his efforts in the Europa League qualifying phase, then he’s already on 13 for this campaign, surpassing Celtic hero Henrik Larsson’s 16-year-old record for the most goals netted in a single season for a Scottish club.
McCoist and Larsson are legends of their respective clubs. Morelos is now being mentioned in the same sentence as them, which only highlights the level he’s currently operating on. His long-term future may not be in Glasgow, the way he’s going, but for now you wouldn’t bet against him gobbling up more records.