Rangers fell to a narrow 1-0 friendly defeat in La Manga against Hertha Berlin at their winter training camp.

Philippe Clement was bizarrely shown a red card by the referee in what became the game’s main talking point. After voicing his displeasure when Scott Wright was fouled near the Hertha box but pulled up for a foul against him, the referee quickly brandished red. Understandably in what was a well-mannered pre-season outing, the Belgian boss was not best pleased to miss the second half from the touchline.

What happened and what did we learn? Here’s the big talking points dissected…

Not the most memorable 90 minutes…

Clement named two different starting 11s over the course of 90 minutes in La Manga against Bundesliga 2 outfit Hertha Berlin. His team dominated the ball in the first half and would’ve been happier heading into half-time if not for a Hertha goal just before the whistle. A near-post header which looped over Robby McCrorie and was scored by Mark-Oliver Kempf separated the sides at half time. The Ibrox side had dominated the ball and only really conceded chances in transition. Their issue was created in the final third with plenty of promise in the build-up. Rabbi Matondo had a couple of shots from range which tested the keeper, John Lundstram saw a goal-bound effort deflected over. At the other end, Todd Cantwell was guilty of surrendering possession on one occasion that conceded a dangerous counterattack. Hertha shaded the chances before half-time even if on the balance of play, this game felt even.

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Clement already had his changes made in advance, with the Belgian manager keen to share out the minutes across his squad. His 11 after the break was far more youthful with Robbie Fraser, Bailey Rice and Cole McKinnon coming off the bench. Leon King played in a defacto right-back role before moving to form a back three in possession. Scott Wright and Jose Cifuentes both took snapshots from range when a through-ball to Cyriel Desers would’ve been wiser after the break and the No.9 saw a good volley well saved after connecting with a cross around the hour mark. Jack Butland pulled off his routine big moment with an excellent one-on-one stop when Connor Goldson was caught on the ball. Only yesterday he explained during an exclusive Rangers Review interview about the keeper’s ability to do just that. Rangers were unlucky to not find an equaliser through Cifuentes and Dessers in the final stages. Clearly, there was a mix of experimentation and pragmatism regarding Clement’s picks throughout - so what did we learn?

What differences did we notice?

Since arriving at the club in mid-October, time on the training pitch has been a novelty for Clement. With a constant flow of games and injuries, the task has been to improve gradually alongside securing results. Nearly a week in La Manga allows not only time together for Rangers as a team, but time for Clement to further embed some footballing ideas and solutions. So, was there anything noticeably different against Hertha?

Perhaps the first sighting came in Rangers’ build-up. Under Clement, they’ve often been direct moving from back to front, playing over pressure without the players or the profiles to find a route forward through the middle. The return of Nico Raskin in the first half alongside Lundstram perhaps points to an area Clement sought to work on during this winter break. While no goals in the first half didn’t exude positivity, Rangers did look sharp in large parts. Their issue remains quality in the final third. Only development in that area will lead to a successful second half of the season. A few eyebrows were raised before the game when Dujon Sterling appeared on the team sheet in what appeared to be a right midfield role. The conventional right-back, who’s occupied multiple positions this season and most recently operated in central midfield, played in a narrow role from the right, rotating with James Tavernier who would push high and wide. It felt like a bit of a test run with big European games on the horizon because on those occasions while Sterling’s role in the team will be debated, his place in it will not. The club’s need for further quality in the final third isn't decided by one friendly. Silva is still building fitness and sharpness. Indeed, only yesterday the forward explained that he’s not an out-and-out No.9, so we might expect him to play a supporting role moving forward. Drawing conclusions from a friendly is always unwise. Clement will likely regard this a good workout with another friendly to come on Tuesday.

Clement’s red card

In a surreal turn of events just after the second half started, the Rangers boss was shown a straight red card by the referee for his reaction to a decision. When Wright was fouled but saw the decision given against him, Clement was not best pleased. Although perhaps a little intense in sharing his feelings, it was a situation where you’d expect a referee to simply ‘have a word’ in competitive football, let alone a pre-season outing. Without even brandishing a yellow the referee went straight to his top pocket. It was a slightly surreal turn of events which saw no manager in the Rangers dugout for most of the second period.

What were we hearing?

Without the noise of fans, only a couple hundred from the two teams found their way to La Manga for this one, there was the opportunity to hear a little more context than usual. Here’s what was said and what it told us:

McCrorie: “Stay narrow Tav, Stay in Rids (Ridvan)”. Clement wants one of his full-backs to hold back, stay narrow and guard against counterattacks when the other joins the attack. In goals before the break, McCrorie was quick to remind either of that fact.

Lundstram: “Get ready to go”. The midfielder brought intensity to his team on the ball and was clearly the most vocal on the pitch. At times he told his team to “relax” and drop back, instead of chasing the ball when not set up to succeed. Then came the demand to prepare to press as Clement’s side aimed to win the ball back.

Goldson: “Any chance?!”. Moments after Clement’s sending-off, the referee was just as hasty to book Connor Goldson for his complaints at the lack of a foul in Rangers’ favour. Again, it felt needlessly hasty and only added to the frustration of the Rangers side.

Butland: “Keep making that run Ross”: McCausland, alongside Rice, was bright for Rangers in the second half and in the closing stages found some success running the line and getting in behind. A shout from his goalkeeper moments before a late chance almost worked perfectly, but the winger lacked options in the box after doing everything right.