Thursday, 30 August 2018

"He came of age" - nine things we learned about Rangers v UFA

An extraordinary night in Russia comes to a close as Rangers stunningly seal their rightful place in the group stage of the Europa League by qualifying the hard way. Ibrox Noise takes you through some things we learned.

1: If ever anyone had any doubt of the spirit of this Rangers squad, which has admittedly looked slightly flatter these past few matches, this evening’s incredible result v UFA down by two men and backs firmly planted against the walls would have dispelled it. No Coulibaly, no Barisic, and technically no Morelos or Flanagan either, this was an absolutely staggering show of guts, spirit, and no small football ability either. This squad is on the right path. It will have dips and troughs, yes, but when it comes down to it, almost every player tonight honoured the shirt properly. Superb.

2: Whatever line Stevie Gerrard spins on it, and in his defence he has to, Alfredo Morelos is an immature wee boy with the world at his feet, and who reminds us unmistakably of a young Wayne Rooney. He will get sent off, he will let his team mates down with dreadful petulance, but equally he’ll work like a dog and produce big moments. He is an absolute Jekyll and Hyde and tonight’s dreadful lapse of judgement (twice inside 20 seconds) was just another example of the soap opera of a spontaneously combusting powerhouse.

3: Ryan Jack looked tonight to be back to his best – we lost count of the number of interceptions and backtracks and even that solo run at the end to waste time was magnificent. Rangers are a better team when this lad is on his game.

4: Defence is just starting to creak a little in some ways while growing in others. Both Goldson and Katic were a little shaky at the start, but Katic especially became a powerhouse and soaked up countless attacks, while Goldson started aerially dominating as the game went on. But it was a bit inconsistent and the defence was exposed tonnes of times in the first half – thankfully the hosts could only muster the one goal. The early honeymoon of the imperious defence is not quite the warm and fuzzy thing it was, and it’s getting real now.

5: Jon Flanagan did indeed lead with his elbow, but not aggressively. Had it been a first booking no one would have complained. The fact it led to a red and he tried to Glasgow kiss the guy afterwards is a mixed bag of ill-fortune and ill-temperament. But he’s been a man and apologised on behalf of himself and Morelos, and both have apologised to their team mates so ho harm and no foul, and thanks to the team spirit the other 9 got them ‘out of jail’.

6: Something which has been overlooked by many is Rangers have gone the hard way to the group stage – four qualifying rounds, with only the preliminary round bypassed, which is 8 matches to earn their place – for a new squad and a new manager this is the biggest Rangers achievement since we won 3IAR in 2011. By very, very far.

7: Steven Gerrard realised his complete mistake v Motherwell and reverted back to the 4-3-3 with Scott Arfield, and there is no coincidence the performance was a mountain better than it was in Motherwell. The sendings off hurt us, but the team played with energy and the pressing was outstanding.

8: Ryan Kent came of age tonight. He still didn’t get his goal but we rarely remember a natural winger working this hard, defending, attacking, and doing everything his heart would allow him to. Much, much better from the loanee and finally he’s starting to look like the right player in the right team.

9: A word too for Ovie Ejaria who is continuing his increasingly impressive form, and his crucial goal tonight was absolutely oustanding. As he grows more and more, it gets more and more difficult to drop him. Quite the turnaround.

This was a mammoth night. The perfect fillip for Sunday. We have tomorrow’s group stage draw to look forward to. And that’s the way it should be.

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