Rangers welcome Alashkert FC to Ibrox this evening in the Europa League play off round one. It’s a beautiful night at Ibrox and a new signing has been announced. Juninho Bacuna is here and has signed to bolster the midfield and will watch from the Director’s box this evening.
It’s an interesting signing and one which, if he can perform well, will be extremely useful. Versatile but naturally right sided he will add competition to the midfield. Capable of moments of magic, can certainly take a shot or ping one from thirty yards if Rangers can just unlock his potential. There has been question marks over his attitude but Rangers will offer him a platform which hopefully he will thrive in. Make no mistake if we can find his form then we have signed a really exciting player.
Back to this evening and the opposition are one I expect Rangers to dispatch comfortably. There is a huge danger in that obviously because there could be a sting in the tail, but I expect to see a Rangers team build on Friday’s performance and go to kill this tie off tonight.
Rangers go with Allan McGregor in goals, with a backline of James Tavernier who captains the side, Goldson and Helander are central with the outstanding Friday night performer Calvin Bassey keeping his place at left back.
In the middle there is no Glen Kamara who serves the last of his European ban, so we go Joe Aribo, Steven Davis and John Lundstram.
Up top, Ryan Kent is restored to the side in place of Scott Wright and Alfredo Morelos leads the line. Ianis Hagi floats on the right hand side and he will hope to drop deep, create space and link with Alfredo. He is the one for me, capable of being different and I’m tipping him to shine for Rangers this season whilst getting some serious numbers.
Cedric Itten, Jack Simpson, Nathan Patterson, Scott Wright, Leon Balogun, Borna Barisic, Scott Arfield, Stephen Kelly and replacement GKs McLaughlin and McCrorie make up the bench.
Let’s hope Rangers can repeat the patterns and pace of Friday’s victory over Dunfermline, there is a season to ignite and kick on with. The Champions league exit was a sore one, this is an opportunity to prove we can still perform at European level and make the group stages for a fourth year in a row, a fantastic achievement all considered.
I’m expectant this evening and so is Ibrox, Let’s go Rangers
First Half match action
7 mins – Early sub for Alashkert, Papikyan off Gome on .
15 mins – It’s been slow and passive, but first dangerous cross from Bassey which Kent is close to getting, that’s better.
16 mins – Yellow! Boljevic elbows Hagi and is first into the book.
22 mins – Chance! Ryan Kent is in space but he fires over via a small touch of the bar. Good pressing by Aribo releases Hagi but this is a Kent low on confidence and he should do so much better.
25 mins – Slow and passive, Rangers are miles off it against a really basic organised side. Extremely poor so far.
33 mins – Yellow! Lundstram is caught wrong side and brings down his man, it’s a yellow card but so slow by Lundstram who gets caught wrong side.
35 mins – Wide! Lundstram finds a cross which defender pokes away from goalkeeper and it rolls harmlessly wide, where were our forwards?
43 mins – Red! Absolute stupidity and all round awful play by Lundstram. Caught wrong side he pulls his man back and it’s a clear yellow, no idea what he is thinking and it sums him up already. Brutal decision making and that is amateurish from an experienced player. Rangers are down to ten.
45 mins – Penalty claim, Bassey goes down the left and stings the keepers hands, as it comes back to him he pokes it away from defender and goes down. Huge claims but looks very minimal contact if any, Worth a try I suppose but sums up a very poor first half.
Half Time – Rangers 0 Alashkert 0
Far too slow, far too passive and no penetration aside of shuffling it left to Bassey who has looked our most dangerous. Ryan Kent is horrendously off form and way down on confidence and the less said about the idiotic John Lundstram the better.
Not sure what is happening out there but it’s clear Kamara and Roofe are huge misses for this team. Very little tempo and all over simply not good enough.
We need a huge response in the second half against a very average opponent, not good enough so far.
Second half action
HT Sub – Off Ryan Kent and on Scott Wright.
46 mins – Wright straight into it, away from his man and drills it across and Hagi is almost onto it.
Looks like a 4-3-2 – Wright has gone up with Alfredo, Davis, Aribo and Hagi in the middle three.
56 mins – Penalty claim! Brilliant turn and run by Scott Wright, he chases his touch and is barged, huge claims once again waved away.
59 mins – Gome Yellow.
60 mins – HUGE CHANCE! Lovely football and Hagi picks out Morelos who heads wide with the goal gaping, what an opportunity!
Ibrox is rocking, fans have been magnificent
64 mins – Wright drives one over but it’s coming, the crowd are up and we are pushing.
67 mins – GOOOOAAAALLLLL! There it is! Wonderful pass by Tav and Alfredo springs the offside trap, takes his time and belts in low under the keeper. The vital break through! 1-0 Rangers and it’s deserved!
Scott Wright has made the difference. Drives, presses, exciting on the ball, better team with him in it.
79 mins – Alashkert drag an effort wide, they are an extremely limited side.
Sub – Joe Aribo off and Scott Arfield on. Aribo has been a bit off for me, one too many touches and not quite his effective self. Tracked back and worked hard, but not quite as productive in attack.
80 mins – Shot by Alfredo is deflected over the bar, another Rangers corner. From that corner Goldson heads wide. Just never looked like he was wanting it.
Sub – Goal man Alfredo Morelos is replaced by Cedric Itten. Alfredo with the big moment so far in this game.
81 mins – Davis yellow for a trip, seemed extremely weak.
90 mins – Arfield yellow for the extremely card happy official, another really weak decision.
Sub – Ianis Hagi off, Stephen Kelly on
Full time – Rangers 1 Alashkert 0
We made it hard for ourselves and that eleven that started will not have pleased Steven Gerrard, in particular Ryan Kent who was hooked at half time. John Lundstram really let himself and the team down and there is no doubts the crowd are not convinced by what we have seen so far.
It’s clear Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe are huge misses and we lack that spark at the moment to kick us on, that’s the big worry from our play.
Second half spirit was tremendous however and Scott Wright the catalyst. quick in the press, quick in the turn he was extremely impressive but we should have got him the ball more. When we did he was direct and pushed the team on, that got the crowd up and that pressure eventually told.
That pressure and spirit with ten men is what we take out of that performance, we have the vital advantage but this is a really mediocre opponent and we have made it hard for ourselves on a night where we should have kicked on.
But the pluses, a win, a clean sheet and some excellent cameos from the backline including Connor Goldson. Defensively we were never troubled even with ten men. Midfield we have issues and it’s clear we miss Kamara and hugely miss Ryan Jack, Lundstram has done himself zero favours and Joe Aribo looks off his best attacking form, even if he put in a shift. That’s an area we need to solve but with Bacuna now an option and Kamara now suspension free, things are easing somewhat.
Ryan Kent’s form is worrying and perhaps Scott Wright should be starting alongside the returning Roofe.
But we got there and that’s the positive. But there is more questions than answers for me in this performance.
Man of the Match – Connor Goldson (My Choice)