A lot of bluff and bluster from our neighbours in the build up to this 4th round Scottish Cup tie that saw the Old Firm face off at Ibrox. This idea that they were still “the best team in the country” is frankly laughable when you simply look at the league table, and it was the perfect team talk for our side going into this game that, if we won, would completely end Celtic’s season. Our start to this game was encouraging and it did not take long for us to take the lead. The ball fell in the area for one of our player of the season contenders to produce a fantastic overhead kick into the net to give our side the early advantage. The Celtic response was a strong one, putting a lot of effort into finding an equaliser but to no avail, before a goal did come from a Celtic player, but rather wonderfully it was put into his own net. Some fantastic work, again, down the right hand side and a ball in across from the by line was knocked in from their right back, with heavy pressure from our attacker. The rest of the first half was as calm as you get in an Old Firm tie, with Celtic looking scared to give the ball away for fear that they might concede another. The plan from them going into the second half was to put all they could into it, it was vital that we did not take our foot off the gas. Annoyingly we did not exert the same level of pressure, whilst they looked to find many potential routes to goal, and when referee Madden awarded a penalty (where are all the people claiming refs will never give a penalty against Rangers?) there was a fear that the final 15 minutes would be tense to say the least. That is, of course, if you don’t have one the great British goalkeepers of his generation between the sticks. Another Old Firm penalty save, and the result was secure as the match played out to a whimper.
For us, it is a double header against St Johnstone in the league and then the Scottish Cup quarter finals. It is a competition that we will now be heavy favourites for, and given a similar scenario happened in the League Cup before our exit in that competition, but the team does feel far more sure of itself now and I have little doubt that our place as favourites for this competition will not faze the team. In fact, they should relish it, because that is what being a Rangers team is all about. Plus, it is nice to have something to still play for having secured the league title already. Much of that you cannot say for certain other clubs from Glasgow…
Here is how you rated our players from yet another Old Firm win this season.
Allan McGregor – 8.7 (8) – Man of the Match
We are now probably looking at the greatest Rangers goalkeeper in our near 150 year history to date. I know that many will find that statement ridiculous given Andy Goram’s Rangers career, but over a far longer spell, with the number of key saves McGregor has made, I do not think this is a stretch to say this now. He saved penalties in Old Firm ties over three different decades. The question of longevity is not even up for debate at this point, and he looks like he can carry on for years to come. A player like Allan McGregor is one that will haunt that lot. And the way that he manages games late on when we are ahead, as well as a number of important saves to go along with the penalty save, is why Allan McGregor is simply the best.
Nathan Patterson – 7.9 (8)
It would be so easy to forget how young Patterson is if we did not always remind ourselves that this is a teenager, and quickly becoming one of the youth departments best exports. As a right back, he has everything. He is calm, he is sensible, and he looks equally as good going forward as he is going back. He could have scored and assisted a couple of times in the first half, and he did not let his slight error that led to nothing affect him. This is now becoming a serious headache for Steven Gerrard to consider going forward. James Tavernier is back fit again, an unused sub here, and that goes to show that the manager has total faith in Nathan even when Tav is considered fit enough to be in the squad. It will be fascinating to see what happens for the rest of the season, as it will be an indication as to what the plan will be next season. Who takes that right back spot? Will the manager find a way to have both players in the team? Would that actually be a bad thing for the squad overall? I’m sure these are the questions being considered at present.
Connor Goldson – 7.0 (7)
He has worn the armband with distinction for the past month or so now, and the consistency to play every single game he has played, it is now getting to the stages where I hope he sees out the season having spent the entirety of it on the field. I would be thrilled to see him join Tav in lifting the Premiership trophy on May 15th, I think he deserves that. On this day, he was not the stand out defender, but he made a difference all the same which cannot be overlooked.
Filip Helander – 7.8 (8)
There was a lot of talk about the Swedish centre back going into this match, as some believed not enough attention was being paid to him and how much he has contributed toward our 32 clean sheets so far this season. Here, he showed that. He gave there main striker (who looks desperate to bugger off incidentally) absolutely no joy, and you can’t blame the guy for thinking he best make a move away if he is going to have to continue to face big Fil for another season. He just gave their attack so little to work with. Strong in the duel, sensible challenges at the right time, he did a super job here.
Borna Barisic – 6.9 (7)
After the Hibs game we wanted to see a much improved performance from Borna and, even though he did not have much influence on proceedings, it was a better showing from him. He was helped in this by the fact that they did not look to attack from wide, and to be honest when they did they were utterly hopeless, especially from their right, so it was a simple Old Firm game for Barisic.
Scott Arfield – 7.0 (7)
Huge credit should go to Steven Gerrard for making the decision to start Scott Arfield in this game. Despite Arfield not having shown the high level of form he produced earlier in the campaign, what he gives you is the energy and solidity in the centre that helps you win the midfield battle, a vital element of these matches. He did not use the ball to the best of his ability but when I heard he was starting, that was not my concern. He was strong, he was working for the whole game, he did exactly what we needed him to do.
Steven Davis – 8.3 (8)
I’m running out of words to describe how brilliant Steven Davis is. I am so thrilled that Heart and Hand are his sponsors for this season, a season that started with a bit of concern over whether he was going to find that top performance level, but what a fantastic season he has had. Today will be one of the highlights of his season. An overhead kick to open the scoring merely 10 minutes in, an amazing moment to witness. From there, he did what he usually does, he ran the show, set the tempo and made sure the game was never in doubt.
Glen Kamara – 7.0 (7)
Glen’s ball usage and dribbling were not the stand out moments in what was a quieter day for him but he did snuff out a lot of danger in the middle, much of that work can easily go unnoticed. It’s simple work, but so effective, and it’s why he is unquestionably one of our most important midfield players.
Joe Aribo – 8.0 (8)
So many have previously said, rightly, that Joe Aribo struggles in Old Firm matches. Well Joe, THAT’S how you perform in a match against Celtic. This was brilliant from him, possibly one of the best performances he has ever had for Rangers since joining. He was quick, he was bright, and he used the ball so well. Both goals come from good work from him on that right hand side, on one occasion cutting in to have a shot and the other cutting to the by line to cross in. Both times, a goal was the outcome, and that goes to show how important he was here. He is just a far better option as an attacker. When we don’t need to worry about a midfield battle being won, he is a good option for the middle three. But in games like this, the high level matches, including Europe, if you are going to play Aribo, it is vital I think to have him in the final third.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.6 (6)
OK, so no goals in this match (he has already scored an Old Firm goal, no need to worry about that anymore) and the best chance he had was a tough one where he had a split second to hit it toward goal. Either side of the keeper and it’s in, but it can come down to luck on those occasions. All the same, he was a strong presence up top and is always a good target for teammates to aim for.
Ryan Kent – 7.9 (8)
If it wasn’t obvious before now, that lot are so scared of Kent when he is on the ball. We were desperate for him to move forward with possession in the opening moments, and on the first occasion he did, it resulted in a goal. The speed along with silky magic to get passed a number of players in the centre before being hauled down maliciously. That opener does not happen without that excellent piece of movement. He then is ready to receive the ball from wide which is knocked in by their own right back, but again he is vital to that goal happening. He is so good in these games, so much so that he is practically priceless.
Kemar Roofe – 5.6 (6)
He was the only substitute we used in the game, which just shows how chilled we were in the latter stages. He looked sharp enough following his introduction, a fierce shot that could have resulted in a goal on another day, but interesting that he came in for Morelos, I wonder whether the two playing together is something that doesn’t mesh. Something to keep an eye on for the rest of the season anyway.