Rangers travelled to Denmark for the first leg of our third round Europa League qualifier, a game that many people felt would be the biggest test for this revitalised Rangers squad. And boy did the team stand up to that test. In what was an excellent 80 minutes from the team (yes, that 10 minutes in the second half was not so good) we dealt with the early threat from the Danes, scored at a crucial point, and bagged three goals in the second half to make our task in the second leg a fairly simple one, for goodness sake please let it be simple! So who were the players who helped make this night so special for those who attended?
Allan McGregor – 7
I loved watching him performing his usual “slowing the game down” antics whilst letting the ball run passed him for a goal kick, that’s proper game management! Pulled off a very good save in the first half that bounced right in front of him, probably his highlight from the game unless I’ve forgotten anything. Yes he concedes twice, but I don’t know if he is the one to blame for them.
James Tavernier – 8
Back to his magnificent best in this game, his cross for the opening goal was brilliant, especially considering he had one target to aim for and three defenders to evade. Thought he led the team well as well, it’s interesting that he seems to flourish in the captaincy role more when Rangers are an attacking force, he seems to gain self confidence from that. Marauding the right hand side like he loves to do, really good display.
Connor Goldson – 7
Steady is probably the best word to describe his game. He didn’t have any “worldie” challenges but he passed the ball around in his usual calm manner. He had a tough task against talented Midtjylland attackers, and to be honest he was fine. Looking back I wonder what he was doing for their two goals, could he have shown a bit more defensive leadership?
Nikola Katic – 8
This game seemed made for big Niko. The 6’5″ striker who faced him had a torrid time, and lesser defenders would have succumbed to his ability, so you have to give massive credit to the Croat for the way he marshalled, won aerial challenges and remained strong throughout. He also scores a cracking goal, and when you consider that he can score goals like that, headers, and even long range strikes (nearly scored a peach against Oxford) then Katic is can make massive impacts at both ends of the park.
Jon Flanagan – 7
His first appearance of the season in a competitive sense, and initially his inclusion seemed a bit of a shock. However, you know what you are getting from him, both in a good and bad sense. So, the bad first. He is not a very good passer of the ball, giving possession away to easily, and I’m not sure what he did particularly well when it came to the two Midtjylland goals. However, he put in an overall solid defensive shift, and the key thing for me is his presence there allows the two players in front of him to stay forward and influence the game further up, and that is something that could be vital for us this season.
Ryan Jack – 7
We have mentioned before how Ryan Jack needs to decide what role he should play within the Rangers midfield, and this was the kind of game that is ideal for him I think. We saw him as more of a defensive player, and his support for Tavernier when he pushed forward was very important. Put himself about, and had a better passing game this time.
Glen Kamara – 7
Probably his best performance of the season so far, doing the dirty work and not being overly noticeable but in a good way. Their midfielders looked giant in comparison to him, yet he was strong, not afraid to get stuck in, and when he had the ball he passed it around well. I think both he and Jack could have had a higher rating had they helped the defence more in regard to the two goals we conceded, but credit to them for controlling matters from that point onward.
Joe Aribo – 8
With that insurance policy behind him in the form of Jon Flanagan, Aribo was allowed to make an influence on the game with his passing, dribbling and shooting. And what a difference it made. He is like a wizard in possession, you almost expect the ball to be taken from him when three players are around him, yet he just saunters past them with ease, taking the ball with him. Simple for him I’m sure, but it’s great to watch. And the way he takes his goal, he has made such an early impact that you had no doubt that he was going to score it. The message to Steven Gerrard is this, let Joe Aribo roam free and you shall be rewarded for it.
Scott Arfield – 7
Buzzing about as best he could, considering the fact he still looks tired from his summer exploits, you can only credit him for his effort. His goal, our fourth, was vital for the tie, and actually he is one of our best finishers in the penalty area, very calm, knows what he wants to do and executes it. Would not surprise me if he gets a couple of weeks rest now (at least I hope so) because when you add the legs to the work rate, he is a game changer.
Alfredo Morelos – 9 – Man of the Match
Let’s talk about the goal first. The cross from the right is brilliant, but Alfie still has a lot of work to do to make something of it, due to the fact he has three big central defenders around him. He repositions himself mid flight, hangs in the air and executes his header perfectly, adding an excellent amount of power into it. Out with that moment, he had a near perfect strikers game. Causing a nuisance, running down the flanks, winning the ball back, just excellent. A player who didn’t get his way and is now in a sulk? No chance. Big Buff is here to stay, and let’s hope he puts in more excellent displays like this one.
Jordan Jones – 9
JJ has arrived as a Rangers player. Like Aribo, he had security behind him, and boy did he make good use of that, amazing runs down the left, unlucky with one or two crosses, but his highlight was his assist for Aribo’s goal. We have seen in the past that players in that position (and let’s be right here, the speed he has is electric and caught them out big time) would have cut inside and tried a shot, but he has the presence of mind to lay off to Aribo, in a better position and on his strong foot. A direct player, you have to believe that Jones will play a big role for us when playing like that.
Sheyi Ojo – 6
By the time he came on, the game was done and all we had to do was see it out, and there was not much Sheyi could do. But I hope he took note of how his rivals for his position performed here.
Greg Docherty – 6
Came on at the same time as Ojo, and although no major contribution was made, his physical presence in the middle did help see out the tie.