Rangers eased themselves to victory last night against the team who finished third in the Belgian First Division last season - and they did so after going a goal behind only five minutes into the match.
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However, two goals inside a nine-minute spell in the second half brought them the victory they wanted, although the coach Dick Advocaat only found the winning way when he made wholesale changes at half-time, when it looked as if the Scottish champions were going to allow the match to run away from them.
Until the substitutions were made, Rangers had been disappointing, and the fact that
Advocaat had spent the summer looking for a front player of
quality was underlined by the fact that Marco Negri looked as disinterested as ever.
Even the chants in his support from the small band of Rangers' supporters in the sparse crowd could not awaken the fire he had shown in his first season and has never been able to rekindle since.
It may be time for Advocaat to abandon hope with the moody Italian and get on with his team- building plans without him. The Dutchman has been patient.
Advocaat offered an olive branch when he arrived at Ibrox and proferred another in the winter break in Florida in January. Negri has shown little inclination to accept them.
His attitude has been in stark contrast to the man who turned the game around for the Ibrox team last night. Russian internationalist Andrei Kanchelskis was given the same opportunity to re-establish himself when the team were in Florida, and he took the chance.
His form from the turn of the year has been exceptional, and last night he scored two goals in two minutes to confirm that his appetite remains undiminished by the summer break.
Until then, Rangers had trailed to a goal which came in the fifth minute when summer signing Alan Johnston hesitated and failed to clear the ball on the edge of his own box. The delay was fatal as the ball then broke to Edin Ramcic, who shot past Stefan Klos and into goal and Rangers were behind before the game had taken onany kind of pattern.
There were attempts at a comeback, but none of them came to anything until Advocaat made the sweeping changes at half time. On came Paul Ritchie, Billy Dodds, Neil McCann, Kanchelskis, and Jonatan Johansson to replace Craig Moore, Jorg Albertz, Rod Wallace, Marco Negri, and Johnston.
The decision to bring on Kanchelskis was the crucial one.
In 65 minutes he hit a stunning equaliser when ball broke loose to him on the edge of the penalty box. Kanchelskis simply volleyed the ball into the net and Rangers were level and they were starting to play.
That was emphasised two minutes later when the Russian did it again. This time he moved on to a pass from Barry Ferguson, held off two challenges as he went on into the Belgian penalty box, and then struck a low shot carefully past the goalkeeper to give the Ibrox side the lead.
In 74 minutes, Rangers struck for a third. Kenny Miller, who had taken over from Claudio Reyna minutes earlier, started the move. His ball allowed Johansson to go clear on the right and when he cut the ball into the middle, Neil McCann had the easiest of tasks to turn the ball over the line from close range.
With two minutes remaining, Paul Ritchie sliced a clearance past Klos to cut back the Rangers' lead and that gave Gent a few moments of hope before the game ended. In reality.
The Scots were in command for that second half as Advocaat once more demonstrated his capacity for altering his team during a game and producing a result.
There were times when ring rustiness showed in the play, times when there was carelssness and a lack of understanding among the players, but that is why Rangers were here, to iron out these faults and be ready for the European Champions League challenge which is in front of them.
Now Gent will come to Glasgow for another game which will help them, as well as Rangers, in their European preparations.
They finished third in their own league, and that allows you an indication of their European status and what it means for Rangers to win a game here in the Gent stadium, even when only prestige is at stake.
Advocaat, unhappy as he must have been with the first half display, could only be pleased with the final result and with the performance from Kanchelskis.
However, as for Negri, the last call must be made soon.
Gent: Herpoel; Borkelmans, Ramcik, Pedersen, Laamers;p Schepens, Sterbal, Kharif, Christensen; Joly, Kaklamonos.
Rangers: Klos; Ricksen, Moore, Wilson, Porrini; Reyna, Ferguson, Albertz, Johnston; Wallace, Negri.
Referee: E.Vermeirsch, Belgium.
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