Alfredo silences critics and starts the Gio era with Euro qualification

A very cold night, a month before Christmas and Ibrox under the lights, yes it’s a big Rangers European night. Victory is necessary if Rangers wish to progress and victory by two will see Rangers qualify from the group stages for the third successive season.

Of course the narrative is now some what different from our last match report. There is a new man in town and it’s time to get behind the Giovanni Van Bronckhorst era as he begins life in the Ibrox hot seat.

Sunday was of course a disaster but not one that was completely unexpected, we have long since reported and felt that form has been patchy all season. So the result was not a surprise although the levels of performance were. There is some, in this team, who look lost of confidence and some who legitimately need a rocket up their backsides.

Tonight’s side has two changes, one enforced and one which some had speculated might be a given. Leon Balogun is injured and drops out, meaning Calvin Bassey plays alongside Connor Goldson. Borna Barisic and James Tavernier play full back in front of Allan McGregor.

Joe Aribo, Steven Davis and Glenn Kamara make up the midfield with Ianis Hagi replacing Scott Arfield. Whether he plays in the middle three of up top alongside Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos is debatable. One thing for sure, in my opinion, there is some in that eleven who are only there due to lack of options out with, because the effort on Sunday really means a spell on the bench was deserved for a few.

Still it’s a new era and a clean slate for all, I really hope we see a difference in attitude and performance to start the new era off in style.

Good luck to Gio and the team, time for kick off….

First half action –

10 seconds – Rangers straight from kick off are in with Alfredo down the right, Kents free in the middle but cut back is weak

6 mins – CROSSBAR! Borna strides down left and plays to Kent who skins his opponent and cuts back for Aribo who take a touch before firing a left foot shot off the crossbar and over! Close!

8 mins – Rangers first corner after good run from Borna, he looks brighter already. Corner is cleared!

17 mins – GOALLLLLL! It’s Alfredo! Doubt him at your pearl and I have plenty this week! Ball down the right Hagi wins to square across and Alfredo digs it out into the corner to send Ibrox wild! He silences the crowd and it’s 1-0!

23 mins – CHANCE! Oh it should be 2! Tav and Hagi work it so well down the right and the cross is scooped over in front of goal, he should header it but chance is missed!

25 mins – SAVE! McGregor sticks out his foot to block a close range Sparta effort.

28 mins – Barisic cross deflected and gk scrambles, ball loose and Alfredo takes a knock trying to score.

32 mins – Brilliant defending by Borna who tracks his runner and gets back to defend a free header, roundly applauded by his colleagues and defensive partners, that was excellent.

35 mins – Sparta free kick fired over, they are having a bit of the ball.

40 mins – CAUTION 📒 Hagi Cautioned and Sparta Free kick outside box which they fire over!

45 mins – CAUTION 📒 Sparta 37 Krejci is cautioned for dissent to referee

HALF TIME 1-0 Rangers

Half time summary –

Rangers lined up 4-4-1 with Hagi and Kent very wide, Aribo behind Morelos. We have been much more compact and disciplined, seem happy to be organised and behind the ball surrendering possession at times which has limited Sparta chances. They have had a few cut backs and one effort McGregor blocked smartly.

Rangers deservedly lead and should be more. Morelos strike, reminiscent of McCoist versus Celtic all those years ago at the old Hampden, he has deserved that for a better performance. Aribo though is guilty of two misses which could have seen us further ahead.

Still lots to build on and more goals required to get us through and qualified but good job so far.

1-0 Rangers

Second half action –

47 mins – CHANCE! Kent is in and curls an effort wide, should be 2!

47 mins – GOALLLL! It is 2 and it is a gift for Alfredo again! Sparta goal kick is played round back and defender chips the cross across his box and Alfredo heads into an open goal! 2-0!

49 mins – CHANCE! Should be 3 and it’s Kent again in on the left, one on one with keeper but hits GK!

57 mins – CAUTION 📒 Borna Barisic for a trip

63 mins – Alfredo in and drills a shot from wide right across face of goal.

65 mins – CHANCE! Alfredo played in and stumbles but shot is saved then quick cross which he heads over. We should be well clear now.

68 mins – CHANCE! Wonderful by Kent who skins his man and Aribo is in but plays it over, this could and should have been more!

Sub – Nathan Patterson on for Ianis Hagi

74 mins – Sparta Hlozek skies over wildly.

75 mins – CHANCE! Sparta free header at back post and it’s wide.

86 mins – HEROIC MCGREGOR! Double save first from a header but gets up to block the rebound with his foot and that was magnificent! 2-0!

Sparta pressure – Sub Lundstram on for Davis.

FULL TIME Rangers 2 Sparta 0

Full time summary

Fantastic start for Rangers and life under Giovanni Van Bronckhorst. Rangers qualify for the last 32 for the third year running and after such a hard start to the group Rangers have come through.

It was a match that had everything, the Buffalo back to his rampaging best, missed chances, McGregor magic and Rangers hanging on in a game that should have been done.

We should have been out of sight with clear chances for Kent, Aribo and Morelos but missed opportunities kept Sparta in it and they had some close calls in the last 15 mins. That will be a concern but McGregor heroics kept the clean sheet.

That’s been an early message from Gio, Keep the Zero and Rangers done that. Lots to be enthusiastic about and lots to be happy about. There is some concern over the last 15 mins and we rode our luck but third season in a row Rangers are through and that’s massive for the club.

Been a lot of criticism for the team and individuals this week, I haven’t been shy in handing it out and tonight they answered some of it. A welcome step in the right direction

Welcome to the Van Bronckhorst era, we come to play, tricks are for the circus.

Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise 🔴⚪️🔵