A much tougher challenge was ahead of Rangers than what we have faced so far this season as we travelled to Edinburgh to face Hibs. This challenge was one we could not ultimately stand up to enough as we dropped 2 points from a winning position, despite putting in the effort to come back from behind at Easter Road. We started with a team that no one in the support would have been critical of, although the absence of Kemar Roofe left the majority disappointed. Hibernian played with two strikers who tested our defence a lot more than what they have been used to up to now and the simple fact is the defence neither expected it nor was able to handle it. We still looked rather threatening from the start in an attacking sense, but old habits sprung up after our first concession of a goal this season, with heads dropping and frustrations showing. A goal on the stroke of half time allowed us to write that first half off and start fresh in the second and the team looked far more lively as a result, which ultimately led to the goal which put us ahead courtesy of some excellent build up play. However, the shaky defence again saw us lose a goal, and our inability to immediately react to set backs meant it was far too late by the time we had our best chances to regain the lead. A very frustrating day and a stumble in what felt like our first proper test of the season.
Of course this does not mean that the season is over, any suggestions that we need to react in such a way are ludicrous. But we have seen our failings and must now look to bolster the squad in areas that have needed redressing for a while now. And with the news that important players will potentially be absent for the next few weeks at least, this must become an immediate priority.
Here is how you rated the team from Sunday’s match.
Jon McLaughlin – 6.2 (6)
The clean sheet run is over and it was a much busier afternoon for McLaughlin than what he has been used to in his time at the club. His highlight of the first half was an excellent save from Hibs striker Nisbet, but when Hibs did take the lead it was a goal that McLaughlin could do very little about due to his defence in front of him not really helping him. I would also suggest that he couldn’t have many fingers pointing at him for the equaliser either, and by the looks of it that is a sentiment shared by many of you as well. No howlers to speak of, he did as much as he could in all honesty. What Gerrard does regarding his keeper now will be very interesting. I would imagine McGregor comes back in for the game against Willem II, and if he puts in a match winning performance, might McGregor retain his place going into the weekend?
James Tavernier – 5.5 (5)
From a defensive point of view, Tav looked a lot more nervous. Whether this is simply down to a tougher opponent or not, I am not certain either way, but it is something that many fans will point to when it comes to our captain that when the level rises from your standard SPFL opponent to one of the bigger ties, he is far more suspect in his defensive work. You can always rely on him for a solid attacking effort, most prominent in this game was his pass to Arfield which helped set up the goal to give us the lead. But, not long after, he doesn’t deal with the Hibs attacker at all and allows him time to cross the ball in which leads to the 4th goal of the game. Fans will expect him to put a lot more pressure on the attacker and close down. As a result, the good piece of attacking play gets lost.
Connor Goldson – 5.0 (4)
He has been playing very well up to this point, and showing great consistency, but against Kevin Nisbet, Goldson had a really torrid time. The pace and direct play of the striker put Connor under a lot of pressure which, on this occasion, he could not stand up to that. As a result, he looked quite meek through out the game, we did not get the long-range passing game (that might have been a deliberate instruction in fairness) and he did not show anything positive in a defensive sense. In fact, his involvement (lack thereof) in the final goal of the game is criminal. You have to ask what is he even doing in that situation? Very much out of character from what he has done up to now, but when that level of attacking opponent rises, the best Rangers defenders rise to that challenge.
Filip Helander – 5.5 (5)
Apart from one moment, Helander looked quite solid I thought. The unfortunate thing for him is that moment was what defined the game. In terms of what he did well, there were plenty of good interceptions and looking strong in the challenge against Doidge, who is more of a target man and easier for a defender of Filip’s qualities to handle. However, when Doidge gets his head to the cross that secures the point for Hibs, it is terrible lack of awareness and positioning from Helander. You cannot, in that area of the box, flounder like that. At that point in the game where we have control of the game and are looking to grab a third, it is desperately disappointing from him (and the rest of the defence) that it all came down to that lapse in concentration.
Borna Barisic – 5.1 (4)
There was me thinking that Borna was going to kick on after a tougher weekend previously. This was very nicely described as a “2018-19 Borna performance”. The opening goal is mainly down to his error of being far too far away from his man who collected the cross field ball, and had time to close down Barisic and knock the ball into the area. He also is culpable for the second Hibs goal, along with the rest of the defence, for all the same problems previously described. What’s more, there were no great set piece moments for him to really point to as a positive for him. This was a very poor day from him, in what feels like a bit of a yo-yo spell at the moment.
Glen Kamara – 5.3 (5)
Kamara has to start getting better at other parts of his game if he is someone we can turn to and rely on. We know what he is good at, he is strong at winning the ball back when he is confident and his positional awareness as well as dribbling is also something that works better for him. But the thing that really seems to be a problem with him is how he uses the ball, or to be more specific with it, him actually KICKING the ball. His passing is often suspect and his shooting is practically non-existent. You can get away with that if you have enough players to take on those roles, and in the past he has, but when we need that extra support in that respect, you really notice his flaws. Plenty of supporters expect far more from him, but we are probably at the stage of his career where it is too late for him to make significant improvements on that front. And if we are going to see him hide behind short safe passes back and forth, especially when chasing the game, these supporters have every right to ask “what is the point?”
Steven Davis – 5.4 (5)
A slower day through out for the experienced midfielder who, unlike against Dundee United, was unable to control the tempo. Or, if he was, it was the wrong tempo. As I mentioned with Kamara, so much of our midfield play was short, simple passes back and forth, a bit “to me, to you”. What I want to see from Davis in a game like this is to demand a higher intensity, to dictate the play and help win the midfield battle. He can do that against lower levels of opposition, we have seen this, but if he can’t do that when the level rises, then we need to look at another midfield option. Going forward his link up play with Tav looked decent, that has been a consistently good factor of our play lately I’ve felt.
Ianis Hagi – 6.0 (6)
Quite possibly the definition of “moments player”. For the first hour of the game, he kept losing the ball in possession due to being closed down very quickly and he really showed his frustration on each occasion. This kept happening to the point where I got frustrated with him and his performance and wanting a lot more from him. However, he then produces a moment that shows why it is always right to keep persisting with him. Arfield receives the ball from Tav and plays it to Hagi. Ianis immediately plays it back to Arf and, in doing so, puts all the Hibs defenders off the scent and Arfield has clear space to finish and put us ahead. This was excellent quick thinking. Yet, he is the player who is sacrificed when Gerrard decides to bring on more strikers. I did not understand this decision, he already proved that he can create an opening from very little. For me, unless he is having a terrible day, I would not substitute him off at all.
Scott Arfield – 7.0 (7) – Man of the Match
An absolute workhorse who found himself in many different positions on the field, putting in a tireless effort throughout. His best moment was the goal that we have discussed with a couple of other players, and as good as he does here, you should also credit him for making himself available in numerous occasions for attacking opportunities. It just makes it all the more disappointing that his chance to give Rangers the lead for the second time in the game is denied by a miraculous save from the Hibs keeper. A great run from a ball over the top and having his first shot saved he snaps at the second effort which requires incredible reflexes from Marciano to deny Arf a second. He has a lot more time than he perhaps realises, he could have taken a touch before placing the ball. But I will not blame him for us not winning the game, far from it, this effort level is what we need in these higher levels of games in the league. He has done himself no harm in terms of his potential selections going forward with this work rate.
Ryan Kent – 6.2 (6)
I’m always the fan of the way he moves on the ball when closing down on a defence. There is always a purpose about it and you’re constantly expecting good things. Unfortunately, despite the good movement being there, we didn’t get the end product we were hoping for. That being said his cross for the opening goal is a nice assist for him to add to his collection, but his decision making in front of goal, on a few occasions, just wasn’t there here. Big game players need to show up in big games, this was all set up for him to be the hero if he was at it. That’s the pressure he thrives on, it was strange he did not look like producing that here.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.6 (6)
For reasons unbeknownst to any sensible thinker, Ryan Porteous seems to live off the idea of trying to get the better of Alfredo Morelos and being an annoying wee so and so in the process. If that is what you want to be defined by, knock yourself out wee man (no, really, knock yourself out). In the past, Morelos has had a mixed bag of results in this battle. In this game, he scores our equaliser and has an amazing amount of time to apply the finish. However, he is a lot more anonymous in the second half and I think he got caught up in that battle himself, as annoying as that is. Oh, and rolling about on the floor after a shoulder barge…I’m not a fan of that at all.
Jermain Defoe – 3.9 (5)
No real impact after coming on, I understand why he enters the game as he can score at any point if he gets the ball in the box. Suffered a bit by the overcrowding of strikers by the end and was lost in the noise of all that.
Cedric Itten – 3.7 (5)
How can you expect Itten to make a game winning impact when he has only five minutes to do so? I think it is unfair to put that on him, although it is a fair argument to see he needs to do better in games he starts to get a better chance.