Gordon Smith: Sometimes underdogs do have their day

Danny Wilson (SNS)
Danny Wilson (SNS)

A TRIO of 3-0 wins over the last week shocked the world of football.

Aberdeen, Arsenal and Barcelona all went into their respective matches against Rangers, Crystal Palace and Juventus as strongly- fancied favourites.

Yet when the dust settled, they had each been comprehensively beaten.

I studied all three games, and was struck by the similarities between them.

All three of the winners were well-organised throughout, carried a bit of luck and thoroughly deserved their victories.

I make the last point, knowing it won’t be met with universal agreement.

Rangers’ success at Pittodrie has been largely presented as more of a case of Aberdeen throwing it away through their poor defending.

For me, that’s unfair. I said in my column last week this would be a big test for Pedro Caixinha and his side and, having passed it with flying colours, they deserve credit.

In fact, I would argue this was the most impressive of all because where Arsenal and Barcelona played their match against a backdrop of uncertainty about the future of their managers, the Dons went in looking rock solid, having won their last 10 home matches.

There was, I believe, much to admire about the visitors’ performance. For the first time, I saw real signs the new manager is having a positive impact at Ibrox.

Where under Mark Warburton there was a lot of passing without purpose, now we are seeing more directness to their play.

The ball is being played forward more quickly and, crucially, players were getting forward in significant numbers too.

Yes, Aberdeen made defensive errors at the second and third goals but those were provoked by pressing from opposition players.

Further back, Rangers were good, too. There was a greater work ethic apparent, and they were very well-drilled.

In particular I was impressed, again, by Danny Wilson’s display.

It is early yet, but could it be the arrival of the Portuguese will herald the sort of improvement in Wilson we have witnessed in the likes of Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest and Craig Gordon under Brendan Rodgers at Celtic?

From a Scottish perspective, all three wins were timely reminders even the best can be beaten.

This ahead of Ross County’s bid to end Celtic’s ‘Invincibles’ run at Victoria Park, Dingwall, this afternoon and the small matter of the Scottish Cup semi-finals next weekend.

Can the holders, Hibs, upset the odds against Aberdeen, or will the Dons show produce a show of character to put the loss to Rangers behind them?

Can Rangers themselves land a glove on their Old Firm rivals?

Not many will bet against the Hoops, but then that was the case before last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final meeting with Rangers and we all know how that ended.

It is to be hoped, anyway, that each of the quartet get an uninterrupted preparation for their matches.

My final comment this week must be one of sympathy for Borussia Dortmund, whose Champions League tie was put back a day after their team bus was bombed.

They lost the game, 3-2 to Monaco, but should not have had to play.

This must have been a deeply traumatic event for the players and one which can’t simply be shrugged off in 24 hours.

It would have been more sensible, surely, to put it back a week, even if it would have been more inconvenient.

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