Having had some time to reflect on last night’s Europa League round of 32 cracker, it’s still difficult to find the words to sum it all up. Having watched it back, I’ve literally lost count of how many times I’ve replayed THAT Ryan Kent goal.
I still don’t know who was officially named as the man of the match, but one thing I am sure about…if it was given to anyone other than Alfredo Morelos then whoever awarded it has had an even bigger shocker than referee Georgi Kabakov.
I could spend the next 3 hours writing about the decisions that the Bulgarian whistler and his team of officials got spectacularly wrong, then move on to writing about the ones in the second half, however it’s El Buffalo that I want to focus on.
Having not kicked a competitive ball since his match winner against Hibs (diet-Celtic) on Wednesday 27th January, he could be forgiven for looking a tad rusty as he wastefully passed up a big opportunity early on, having perfectly sprung the offside trap.
His first big contribution however, came on 38 minutes, with a beautiful little cushioned ball for Aribo to open the scoring. At first watch, it looks like a simple case of taking advantage of a goalkeeping error, but the cuteness of Alfie’s wee touch was exquisite and similar to the chance he’d created for Scotty Arfield earlier in the game. Aribo still had a lot to do to find the net from that position and he bent it perfectly away from the Antwerp defenders in his path.
Then we go 2-1 down, how, I still can’t quite fathom, however it isn’t long before Morelos is at it again. His movement in the box leaves ex Man United defender De Laat helpless and but for a desperate pull on the Columbian’s jersey, Morelos surely would have been in exactly the right place to head home the equaliser. Finally, though, the ref gets a decision right (at the second time of asking, via VAR) and in the absence of Tav, Borna steps up and atones for his earlier error to convert the penalty on his 100th Rangers appearance.
On the subject of penalties, we were denied an absolute stonewaller in the first half, the ball clearly handled in their box, under pressure from…you guessed it – Morelos. Now by the letter of the law, that’s a penalty and was no different to the one George Edmundson conceded against Leverkusen at Ibrox last season. No wonder the gaffer is begging for “consistency”.
Back to this one, and having been hit with a sucker punch, we found ourselves behind for the second time in the game. The way we were playing though, you just KNEW we would get ourselves back into it and on 83 minutes, that’s exactly what we did. Most of the credit goes to Kent for this one, he made a real difference after he came on at half time, looking every inch the £7m superstar we know he can be. A marauding run into the box, perfect 1-2 with Morelos and there was only going to be one outcome – 3-3, game on.
Just a few moments later, Kent was through on goal again, however he just couldn’t find the finish on that occasion. I did wonder if he might have pulled it back to Morelos who has taken up a really good position in the box.
The winner did arrive though, by virtue of another Borna Barisic penalty which was actually executed a lot better than his first one. AGAIN Morelos was instrumental, this time getting down the right-hand side and putting in another perfect ball to Kent, who’s shot came off the hand of Antwerp’s Abdoulaye Seck as the referee pointed to the spot for the third time in the game. Fittingly also, the defender was shown a Seck-ond (see what I did there) yellow card. He looked pretty decent last night and I am sure he’ll be missed by the visitors next Thursday.
Big win and a big big display from our talisman. Whilst also avoiding the “card-happy” referee’s notebook, he did EVERYTHING else but get on the scoresheet last night. As Gerrard said after the match – that’s no problem though because he’ll be hungry to get on target against Dundee United at the weekend, and who would bet against that?!
With Roofe looking like he’ll be out for a while, now is the time for Alfredo to step up again as our main striker. It would be amazing to see him back to his prolific scoring form, but in truth, if he links up with Kent, and they both perform for the rest of the season even half as well as they did last night, we’ll take some stopping, both domestically and on the continent.
El Buffalo take a bow.