Fear And Loathing In Malmo: A Late Sevco Goal Can’t Hide The Smell Of Panic.

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Tonight a late goal by their veteran midfielder Davis is all that stood between the Ibrox board and a long look into the abyss.

The journey to its edge might not be long delayed.

When Malmo goes to Ibrox a week tomorrow they will go with there with a confident swagger, knowing that a performance on the level of tonight will be enough to send them through.

In another footballing universe that late goal would have taken all the air out of the home club’s sails.

But we no longer live in that universe.

There is no away goals rule anymore, and so whilst the trip to Glasgow will be fraught with dangerous possibilities they got all that mattered. A win. They can choose their approach for the away game.

If they score at Ibrox, I reckon the gig is up because that Sevco side doesn’t look like they have two goals in them far less the three required to win the tie.

And anything less for the home club than a place in the next round is not just a bad result but the catastrophe the BBC tried to hang around the neck of Ange Postecoglou just a week ago.

To use the title of a favourite TV show, tonight they were Seconds From Disaster.

The late goal bought them a stay of execution, but their Champions League hopes hang by a thread.

Last week, when the pitiful BBC hack tried to trap Ange in his tricky web of words our manager shot back at him.

The idea that our early exit from the Champions League has damaged the club in any real way, except in reputational terms, is simply not true. We don’t budget for Champions League qualification and we never have.

Our projections are made on the basis that we will achieve “European Group Stage football”, not on hitting the jackpot in the Promised Land.

But the entire Ibrox business model is based on reaching that far off shore, and tonight they were less than a minute from an emergency board meeting to start planning for some serious cuts.

If they don’t recover this tie next week those cuts are a certainty.

Ibrox’s great gamble of last year, you see, was predicated on two shoot-for-the-moon rolls of the dice; one on winning the title and the second on qualifying for the Champions League Groups.

Achieving the first part, as nice as it was for them, is actually pretty meaningless in terms of its long-range impact, if they can’t close the second. A two-part bet collapses unless both halves come off.

Otherwise it’s just another piece of paper for the bookies bin.

For the first time in a while that whole club is caught in the vice-like grip of pressure, the real kind, the killing kind, because without that Champions League bounty last season’s losses can’t be offset by this season’s income.

The black hole remains unfilled.

The Peepul who have carried those losses up until now will be forced to carry more … and their appetite for it is wearing thin, as evidenced in the scramble to raise extra revenues from the fans.

There’s also UEFA, casting its dark gaze around football once again, and looking at the break-even figures for the teams applying for European licenses.

Ibrox is miles over the limit; Champions League income might have made those books look better.

Without it, the accountants will simply be picking their way through wreckage.

I found it instructive tonight that when that dreadful commentary team reminded people that it was exactly ten years ago today that Rangers lost against Malmo to exit the Champions League that, amazingly, the vast implications of that result were never mentioned and never brought up for discussion, but you cannot know the state the club was in then, and the state the current one at Ibrox is in now off the field, without being aware of the similarities.

Of course, Rangers crashed out of Europe altogether not long after that night a decade back – and to hear McCoist criticise us for the result last week you’d never think that brass necking bastard had presided over those twin disasters – and this year there’s very little chance of the current Ibrox club doing so, with the parachute into the Europa Conference League offering even teams which screw up as much as we have more opportunities than ever before to get to a Group Stage.

But the Ibrox “business model” wasn’t built for such an outcome, either then or now.

They went all-in.

They are still all-in, and the flop just went against them.

Sure, every poker player knows that you can still be saved on Fourth Street and if all else fails you can get lucky on the River … but no decent player would ever get put in that position, no smart operator would find themselves down that hole.

Which is why the smell of fear off them was so strong this evening, and why the stink of it is clogging up their nostrils even now.

They aren’t home and dry here, not by a long shot, and looking at the pile of chips in the pot, and the confident looks on the faces of their opponents, the over-riding question must be “how the Hell did we end up here?”

A better question, should they fall next week; “How they Hell are we ever getting out of this mess?”

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