Having failed to register a point from our opening two group stage matches, it was vital for us to pick up three points from this game to keep any hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Europa League alive. Against the bottom seeds, it was a result that felt manageable on paper, yet the way things have gone for the team of late, by no means was it certain. The hope was Rangers could carry on the performance levels shown in the first half of our game against Hearts, but be able to carry that on into the second 45, that consistency of performance has really been lacking of late. A strong line up was backed up by a strong display in the opening period, where there was a real energy in looking to win the ball back quickly and get forward fast. Our play from wide was good, our full backs looked encouraging, and our midfield looked like it had a plan in place and was sticking to it, despite it having two players fans are not convinced can play together. We would go ahead in the 18th minute from a corner, brilliantly put in and headed home by a defender who continues to show good form. We had been playing good stuff up to this point, but this was followed by one of the few chances Brondby had which involved a lack of communication from the right side of our defence. Not long after we had the ball in the net again, although the linesman’s flag was raised after the initial header was parried into the path of the scorer. However, VAR intervened and informed the referee that he was in fact onside and the goal was given, much to the annoyance of many in Scotland (cry more) and the away support who had brought a banner showing their disdain for the refereeing tool, they must have known it would haunt them here. We kept the ball well for the remainder of the half, and were unlucky not to have a third with a shot off the post, but the half time lead was more than adequate for how we performed.
When the second half began, after some nonsense involving a few Brondby fans having some trouble dealing with some netting, we immediately gifted the Danes a wonderful chance with a slack back pass putting them clean through, but the chance was missed and we got away with one. We didn’t really start the second period at all well, once again we failed in this respect, although on the hour we really should have been given a penalty and how VAR does not intervene here is very strange. The multitude of subs that followed killed the pace of the game, which helped us to be honest, but those who came on for us did give us some chances, two in particular where we were unlucky not to extend the two goal advantage. A shot tipped onto the crossbar after nice work from two subs, and a clear cut opportunity for another sub he could not take advantage of. But the game would conclude without any further incident, and given the other result (an absolute cracker of a game) it makes our path to the knockout stages of this competition a lot clearer, but we need to keep progressing from this point, and that is two games in a row where we are seeing a lot more promising pieces of play.
Here is how you rated our players from our first group stage win of the season.
Allan McGregor – 6.6 (6)
Quite an easy night for the keeper given Brondby failed to register a shot on target. The two chances they had from which they should have scored were poor efforts from both their starting forwards, although McGregor rushing out for the Uhre chance at the start of the second half is exactly what a keeper should do in that situation and it forces the forward into a decision, so credit to Allan for that at least.
James Tavernier – 7.2 (7)
Better. A lot better actually. I liked that he found himself in that “inverted” part of the field where he would be more directly involved in attacks, the intent in his movement showed a lot more confidence. His delivery from the corner in which we scored our opener was fantastic, especially given the fact he was on the receiving end of objects being thrown onto the park. From set pieces he is excellent, and being so involved in the attacking play, where he was unlucky not to get the right connection with a shot in the second half, this looked far more like the Tav we want to see.
Connor Goldson – 7.2 (7)
Was a weird moment between him and the skipper when Brondby had their big first half chance, there seemed to be a real lack of talking between the two and they were having a right few words with each other after it. It’s something I’ve eluded to before in terms of their partnership, but thankfully it did not cost us. Like McGregor, this was an easy enough night for the defender.
Leon Balogun – 7.2 (7)
Congratulations to Leon for scoring his first Rangers goal, and a fine stage for him to do it in. The delivery being as sweet as it is, it requires that determination to be on the end of that ball, and Balogun does all the right things to give us the lead. He has been a good performer for us of late, he deserves this moment. However, having to depart midway through the second half with an injury will make us feel very worried. We really don’t want to be missing him for any of our upcoming games with Helander’s return not on the horizon.
Borna Barisic – 6.1 (6)
You lucky boy, Borna. Given we have had a problem with starting second halves well, the thing you don’t do is gift a brilliant chance for your opponents with a wayward pass. No one would have been more relieved than him that they were not able to take advantage of it. He had plenty of licence and cover to get forward which helped, although he did seem to back off in the second half.
Joe Aribo – 8.4 (8) – Man of the Match
Superb from him, and it’s how he should be playing when in the middle, constantly looking to bring the ball forward, being a threat in front of goal, but also winning the ball back on so many occasions to help us get going. The sort of full midfield display that we yearn for when he starts in the midfield, but when he is allowed to push forward more often and not feel inhibited by sticking to the centre, then we get this more aggressive and more well rounded display, in which he should have won us a penalty had VAR done it’s job. He also should have had an assist as well for a great cross which was not converted initially, but it was on the rebound so we can give him some credit for the second goal at least.
John Lundstram – 7.0 (7)
Once again, a really composed and sensible midfield display, both in respect of anchoring as well as getting forward. The way the management team dealt with playing both he and Davis was rotating them in game, so you had times Lundstram would cover the left side, allowing Barisic to push forward more, and others where he would be more central and more disciplined. He just works for that role so well, and is the kind of player you cannot have out of the team right now.
Steven Davis – 6.9 (6)
It was interesting seeing Davis play a slightly different role at times during this game, and having both he and Lundstram in there together really amplified the two directions that these players are going. That makes it sound really harsh on Davis here, it’s not meant to, but the fact that Lundstram absolutely starts ahead of Davis right now is so unexpected from a couple of months ago. Steven was fine, although he did show hesitancy on the ball at times.
Kemar Roofe – 6.9 (7)
In the right place at the right time to knock the ball in, and VAR came to the rescue to correctly give the goal, once again showing that he has a habit of being in the correct areas to take full advantage when the chance comes. Whether the partnership with him and Alfie is working or not is another question though, and I wonder whether we get more from him if he plays as the main attacker rather than off the right.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.3 (7)
Two aspects to consider. His overall game was actually pretty good in respect of his link up play, his dropping deep to set things going and what his effort. However, he is the main attacker, he needs to score when a good chance comes up, and again he wasn’t able to do that. Our second goal comes from his chance, where he heads the ball to the one place where the goalkeeper is able to save it, although Kemar was able to find the rebound. He also hits the post right before the break, and his early departure from the game felt like a sign the frustration had got the better of his head, and we need to wait a bit longer for goal number 100. I think he should move to the bench for the next game personally, take away a little bit of that pressure.
Ianis Hagi – 7.0 (7)
I like the partnership that is beginning to surface between him and Aribo on the right, two players who naturally want to cut inside, but one will always go a bit wider and we have a line of four ready to cause havoc. Hagi is just the kind of player you need to have in your team for at least the majority of the game, as he is always capable of creating that moment from nothing.
Calvin Bassey – 5.9 (6)
Coming in to play centre back, replacing the injured Balogun, and he looked a lot more assured than in Prague, although the opponents may have played a part in that. If Leon was to be unavailable for Sunday, it would be interesting to see who Gerrard would go for to partner Goldson. If he picked Bassey, I think that says all you need to know about the future of Jack Simpson.
Fashion Sakala – 5.5 (5)
A great chance to put some shine on the scoreline, running through on goal having done well to pace past the Brondby defence, but his shot is at the keeper who all the same does well to prevent the goal. He seems to want a few touches too many right now, this chance was in stark contrast to his goal in the Real Madrid friendly, so we need to keep an eye on this and find a way to get him into a space where he can be more deadly in these moments.
Juninho Bacuna – 5.0 (5)
Probably the least impactful of the subs, I think it will take him time to get into the first team more regularly. His versatility will make him a great bench option, but that could inhibit his starting chances for a bit.
Scott Arfield – 6.3 (6)
Very unlucky not to have found the net after some great work between him and Wright, his shot tipped onto the bar. A few have talked about the potential of him starting some games that are coming up in our schedule, having seen him look good off the bench here, and in that attacking midfield role he could well offer a fair amount if given the chance.
Scott Wright – 6.2 (6)
Back to being that impact sub role again and it does work better for him right now, that raw speed can catch defences off guard, and the link up with him and Arfield was encouraging.