Rangers secured a place in the Quarter Finals of the League Cup with a very comfortable win over third tier side Falkirk at their stadium. A much changed side, which was expected, took to the field with all the noise in the country coming from Glasgow following our rivals being knocked out of the competition they have had the best of for the past few years. It is fair to say, they did not take it very well. Nevertheless, all our focus was on how our team would do (yes, with the occasional twitter glance at videos of metal barriers being thrown) and their response to us becoming massive favourites to finally lift a trophy we are very keen to see back on our trophy room was to put in a professional display, put the game out of sight, and allow ourselves to blood some youngsters in the latter stages. It was, in all honesty, exactly how a game like that should go. And even the plastic pitch did not cause an issue for us, and this feels like less and less of an excuse now, we are far too professional a team to let something like that bother us, although to be fair I’m not sure the turf at The Falkirk Stadium is as bad as the ones we are more used to in Livingston and Kilmarnock.
All the goals we scored here were special in their own brilliant way. Our opener was classy finishing from a classy striker, with our second being a tap in following a corner from a player everyone is getting excited about. A brilliant free kick saw out the half before scorer turned provider for his fellow full back to keeping notching up the goal stats. We have a team feeling really refreshed going into our Europa League game on Thursday which will hopefully secure progression to the knockout stages.
Here is how you rated our players after our last 16 League Cup tie.
Jon McLaughlin – 6.6 (7)
On a few occasions McLaughlin was there to make some decent saves at a point where Falkirk decided they might as well have a go. We have seen in the past teams sneak a goal in situations like that for a bit of pride, but big Jon was having none of that and he brings up yet another clean sheet to add to his tally for this season. I would be very happy for him to remain our keeper for the rest of our League Cup games this season, he is more than good enough to earn that place.
James Tavernier – 7.6 (8)
The importance that is placed on Tavernier this season has been stated plenty of times before, but this was probably the kind of game you would expect him to be rested for given a big run of games coming up. But Captain Fantastic was having none of it, he wanted to start, he wanted to score, and he did both. His goal finished off the scoring but it was well worth the wait, a great cross from his fellow full back and he storms in to blast home on the volley. I’m sure his finishing is getting better as time goes on you know. There were other chances as well during the game, and he did manage to get some time on the bench toward the end of the game, and that smile on his face after he came off tells you all you need to know, the big man is loving life.
Connor Goldson – 7.3 (7)
He sets the ball rolling with his lofted cross field pass which ultimately assists our first goal. Nice to see that move paying off with goals. He did well in his brief bits of defensive work as well as talking his young defensive partner through the game very well too. Even against a much lower ranked opposition, he is still vocal as ever. It says a lot for how we all feel about him when he was down holding his leg, that heart in the mouth moment we all had, but luckily for us he is made of strong stuff and is in no danger of missing any of our upcoming games as things stand.
Calvin Bassey – 7.4 (7)
Always looked set to play this game but due to other circumstances he found himself in the centre rather than on the left. A position that he has played in for the youth side at Leicester, it was the first time he was used in that role, and there were no major surprises really. He fitted in perfectly well, was athletic in the way Balogun looks in the centre, and provided the same strength he always does on the ball. And to get his first goal for the club, our second of the game, from a tap in after being first to react to the loose ball in the box, the joy in his face at getting that goal was wonderful. Here is to many more goals and important moments Calvin, we are all getting quite excited about what you can do for us.
Borna Barisic – 7.8 (8) – Man of the Match
A goal and an assist. A free kick and a cross from the left. It’s just what Borna does isn’t it!? The free kick could not have been better positioned for his style of set piece if he placed it there himself. Ideal to curl up over the wall, away from the flailing goalkeeper. His assist is a great cross which he knows Tavernier is going to get on the end of, and the trust they have in each other really helps us get the most out of both full backs who are so important to how we want to play. It’s good to see him playing as well as that again, and hopefully that continues.
Scott Arfield – 6.8 (7)
I’m sure this will have been the first time Arfield returned to Falkirk since playing for the side all those years ago. It is a place he retains in his heart for the notable reason of his shirt number, wearing the number 37 for his whole career in honour of young Craig Gowans, a youth player at Falkirk at the time Arfield was there, who tragically lost his life whilst with the club. There was no stand out moments for Arf when he was on the park, not that there was a real need for him to be a vital part of this game. It was quite surprising he played in all honesty but he was brought off when the game was beyond Falkirk and he will be in perfectly fine shape for his next match, presumably this midweek.
Bongani Zungu – 7.3 (8)
The South African internationals first start for the team in a game that I think was ideal for him to get a feel of, as the plastic pitch and unusual environment of Falkirk will have given him a good idea about what Scottish football can be like, as well as the rough and tumble of that level, such as his collision with Connor Sammon which left him with a bit of a sore head afterward. His long range passing was useful, but his biggest asset was the way he swept up possession, this is definitely what he is going to be most useful for, and the early signs suggest that his role will be that anchor in the midfield, and he looks up for the task.
Ianis Hagi – 6.0 (6)
I was looking forward to Hagi playing in a slightly deeper role in the midfield, a bit like Aribo, but that lasted just the 25 minutes before he was pushed up further due to injury to one of his teammates. From there, the intent and effort was as good as you can ask for but it just wasn’t falling for him. This was perhaps an opportunity missed for him to prove he can break into the attacking trio for the big games at the moment, and his chance to show he could do the required job in the centre was taken away far too early in my opinion. It will be interesting to see when he is next afforded a start.
Cedric Itten – 6.0 (7)
It does seem for the time being Itten is being used in the wider role, and he seems perfectly happy to be used as such. Was unlucky not to score a header from a corner which was ultimately knocked in by Bassey, it was his best scoring chance of the game I think. Many will criticise for the fact he did not get a goal and is in need of one, and that this was the ideal game for him to get on the scoresheet, but for me I think you cannot discount the level of work he put in over the game and really the only thing that was missing for him was that goal. His time, as I have said before, will come.
Jermain Defoe – 7.6 (8)
Why do you play Jermain Defoe in a game like this? He is going to score. Hardly any time has been played in the match, he runs on to the long ball from Goldson and on the half volley on his weaker foot (like that makes a difference) guides the ball into the inside of the net. Proper strikers instinct, and he was unlucky not to have a second goal with a good volleyed effort just outside the box. I liked the fact he seemed to be sticking by Itten as much as possible to help him and guide him, that is perhaps what will be the making of Cedric, having the chance to learn the striking instinct of someone like Jermain.
Brandon Barker – 4.4 (5)
Wasn’t able to last the half hour before being subbed off due to an injury which is unfortunate. Didn’t really make any impact in that brief period either.
Glen Kamara – 6.9 (7)
Was quite surprised to see him come on for Barker at that stage, more so for the fact it didn’t seem like the kind of game that needed the assuredness of Kamara. All the same he is there to handle any issues, not that there were many, and strolled through the match with little fuss
Glenn Middleton – 5.6 (5)
Making his first appearance of the season and the dynamic around him feels very different from the one of a couple of years ago where he was looking like the real deal for his age. He came on to play at left back, which makes you wonder whether the type of player he is makes it impossible for him to impact a game in the attacking positions. He is far more comfortable on the flank than sitting more inside, and he will need to push himself to prove he can cut it in this Steven Gerrard side.
Ciaran Dickson – 6.8 (6)
A first team debut for a player who we have seen a lot of in the youth sides over the past couple of years. A midfielder who looked very happy and comfortable on the ball, he was demanding possession of it and looking to prove himself. This was a nice way for him to start off his Rangers career, and is proof for the current generation of young players that you will get the chance if you earn it.
Greg Stewart – 4.6 (5)
This seems like the level that Stewart is able to play for us at these days, a sub in a game that we are winning 4-0 with very little to worry about. Is he better than that? Is it more that we just have so many better options than him? The trouble for him in the past has been that he has not proven enough that he can do what is needed from the start, and it has all the signs that sooner rather than later he will be the next to be told “thanks for your services”.
Leon King – 6
Another debut for a young lad who is exciting a lot of people who are aware of our youth sides. A central defender by trade, he was brought on to play at right back and on the evidence of what we saw this is a player who seems happy to push forward to influence the game in an attacking sense. Given his age there is plenty more time for him to develop before we get a proper idea about whether he is likely to be a player we see starting week in week out for us but, like Dickson, his teammates at youth level can look to him as the bench mark for what you need to do to get into this team.