Rangers today welcomed Arsenal to Ibrox stadium as we began our 150th anniversary year celebrations. Two clubs rich in history and with an appreciation for each other which stretches back years.
It was back in 1973 when Arsenal visited Ibrox to celebrate Rangers centenary and over 70,000 would pack the stadium to celebrate with the club. Legendary players would grace the pitch led by Jim Baxter himself.
Rangers of course even held shares in Arsenal from the 1900’s when Rangers aided the Gunners recovery. The strength in friendship between the two is well known and shared, so much so that many were deeply upset when those shares were disgracefully sold behind the clubs back, by our then ‘owner’ some years ago.
In present day Arsenal are led by ex Ranger Mikel Arteta, famous for scoring the penalty which helped clinch our 50th title. It hasn’t been easy for Mikel, initially winning the FA cup but unable to find consistency during the 20/21 season, many fans have questioned his tenure at the club.
Arsenal are still rich with talent, believed to be about to spend £50m on Ben White from Brighton, they have the financial clout with the best of the English Premier league. They still boast superstar names such as Partey, Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette to name but a few.
Rangers have of course already played a few bounce matches so far, beating Partick 0-1 with a late Cedric Itten strike before a disappointing loss last week in Tranmere.
It’s fair to say that this afternoon’s match will be a step up in class and the manager will be looking for the players to step things up in terms of quality especially in front of goal. As fitness gives way to performance, it’s a chance for our players to cement their places in the first team for the season’s opener just weeks away.
Rangers still without Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent, Filip Helander, Borna Barisic and Alfredo Morelos, were on some sort of familiar lines and a first chance to see John Lundstram at Ibrox next to Glen Kamara and Steven Davis.
The back four had the inclusion of Calvin Bassey for Borna on the left, Allan McGregor keeps goal. Up front, Roofe and Hagi shadow Jermain Defoe with no Ryan Kent in the match day squad.
Arsenal start Thomas Partey, Nuno Tavares, the superb youngster Smith-Rowe as well as Nicholas Pepe and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
It should be a fantastic afternoon and match ahead.
Also wonderful to have fans back in the stadium, already vocal throughout our warm up.
Match Action/Key Moments
9 mins – Slack pass by McGregor and Aubameyang sends over when should really score
13 mins – Great run by Bassey and wiped out by Pablo Mari who is booked. Subsequent free kick earns Rangers a corner.
14 mins – GOAL! That corner is swept in by Tav and Balogun heads home, brilliant header and the big mans first Rangers goal.
22 mins – GOAL! Nuno Tavares steals in to score after Tav mis controls a long ball.
31 mins – Aubameyang misses a clear header as Arsenal waste another opening.
33 mins – McGregor saves as Arsenal slice Rangers apart, Flo Balogun through and our no 1 stays big.
36 mins – Defoe off injured, on comes Scott Wright.
39 mins – BLOCK! Bassey stops on the line from Aubameyang after superb run from Smith-Rowe forces McGregor into a good save.
Half time Rangers 1 Arsenal 1
Arsenal very strong and the movement of the front three in particular is outstanding. Pepe, Smith-Rowe and Balogun outstanding but Rangers were too easily passed at times which is a concern. Bad misses by Aubameyang who could easily have had a hat trick.
Rangers badly missing Morelos and Kent to hold the ball as well as being an out ball when under pressure. Tavernier strong down right is a big plus even if not quite there with final ball.
Second Half/Key moments
47 mins – Good save by McGregor as Partey stings his hands with an effort
49 mins – The brilliant Smith-Rowe forces McGregor into a great save down to his right.
54 mins – John Lundstram comes close with a header after another great ball by Tavernier.
60 mins – Host of changes for Rangers and Arsenal after a great run by Bassey finished with a shot over.
74 mins – GOAL! Lovely ball in by Middleton from the corner and Cedric Itten is up to score superbly. 2-1 Rangers!
80 mins- CHANCE! Kelly free at back post but hits the keeper with his effort , should score.
82 mins – GOAL! Arsenal equalise. Nketiah with a reverse finish after stealing the ball from Middleton. 2-2!
84 mins – McGregor saves again after another Arsenal snap shot, he’s earned his money today.
FT – Rangers 2 Arsenal 2
Great work out for Rangers against a strong Arsenal side. Manager can be pleased with that work out but will be keen for Rangers to continue to build up match fitness with games against Blackpool, Brighton and Real to come in the next eight days. Some players are a bit rusty but nothing to worry this early and things will get sharper as the weeks go on.
We won’t come up against many sides who have such a strong attack and array of talent but certainly a great match for Rangers. Emile Smith-Rowe was fantastic and is a real talent.
More minutes in the legs and match fitness which will be key, we still have half dozen players to return which will obviously improve things further.
Brilliant personally to be back at Ibrox in the press gantry, thank you to Rangers for that. Even better to see the support back and in such great voice.
Onwards for the Champions.