Giovanni van Bronckhorst claimed his Rangers side played with “passion, desire and fire” to reach the Champions League play-off with a thrilling 3-0 win over Union Saint-Gilloise to go through on a 3-2 aggregate.
The Light Blues had not previously overcome a 2-0 defeat away from home in the first leg of a European tie but a James Tavernier penalty just before the break at a raucous Ibrox and second-half goals from striker Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman – his first for the club – saw off the Belgian side, who finished the game with 10 men after Lazare Amani was sent off in injury time.
Rangers will now play PSV Eindhoven in the play-off, with the first game at Ibrox next midweek.
Gers boss van Bronckhorst, who guided the club to the Europa League final last season, said: “We needed a big performance and the pressure was on us after last week.
“We know we are capable of delivering big nights for the club. But still you have to do it over and over again.
“That’s why I am so proud of my players, the way they played, with passion, with desire, with fire to go to the next round.
“That is the only way you have to be on the pitch, to create the atmosphere we created with the fans today.
“It was an amazing night for all of us.”
Van Bronckhorst admitted his heart was in his mouth at 2-0 in the second half when referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos showed defender James Sands a second yellow card for a challenge, before changing his mind after consulting his linesman.
The Dutchman, who was unhappy with a penalty awarded to USG in last week’s 2-0 defeat in Belgium, said: “We knew last week wasn’t a penalty, which made it harder for us.
“Today, I was happy with the decisions of the referee, of course it was in our favour.
“There was one moment in the second half with James Sands, I was like, ‘this can be a very important moment for the game’. It was good that he didn’t give the yellow card and gave the ball to us.
“We want to be in the Champions League and I saw the desire in my players.”
The former Feyenoord player and boss looked forward to playing against PSV, coached by compatriot Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He said: “It is a familiar team for me. It is great to see Ruud van Nistelrooy, again there are so many familiar faces.
“I was assistant to Fred Rutten (PSV assistant) at Feyenoord a couple of years ago.
“It will be nice to be back in Holland again after so many months in Glasgow – but we will prepare well.
“It is a big chance to take the last hurdle and play Champions League football.”
Union Saint-Gilloise boss Karel Geraerts claimed the penalty just before the break was the turning point in the game.
He said: “Yes, until that moment, everything was under control.
“We were aware of the first 20 minutes because everyone said they would start really hard.
“We controlled everything really well and when you lose a goal it is hard to get the same scenario in the second half.
“The second goal gave the opponent more confidence and the third goal…there was a problem in the defence but they made the most of the chance.”
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