Match Ratings – Rangers 2-0 Sparta Prague

folder_openMatch Ratings, Rangers FC

A monumental night was in store for us at Ibrox on Thursday as Rangers looked to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Europa League. A win by 2 or more goals would see us unable to be overtaken by Sparta Prague, whose arrival in Glasgow was in no way welcome off the back of the previous encounter and how their fans and their club conducted themselves. This, along with the high likelihood that Brondby would not beat Lyon, meant that we would have achieved our goal from the start of this Euro campaign. What would not have imagined happening by this point, is that this game would be the first game for our new manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who had seen an awful display from the stands at Hampden, and he, along with his coaching staff, would have just two days to prepare our team for one of our most important games of the season. A massive game to begin with, but he looked very assured of himself going into this, and the performance we would see from the players here would show why. The game started with a good intensity from us, looking to close down a lot and be quick with our use of the ball. A 4231 shape was expected, but all the same seeing that in action felt like a real change and in many ways a welcome one, as a lot of players seemed to be playing in far more favourable roles for them. We had a few early opportunities, one of which gave us the lead after good work from the right to find our striker who side footed the ball in for the advantage. As the half went on, we looked to take our foot off the gas a bit but that was forgiven off the back of us looking far more like the thing, both in attack and defence.

The second half again began with us looking strong going forward, with a few really good chances not being taken, before a horror moment for the Sparta Prague defender saw our striker take full advantage to give us that crucial second goal. We should have scored a few more before this though, and by this point the game should have been done and dusted, but going into the final stages of the game, Sparta were doing all the could to find a goal back that would keep their last 24 hopes alive. They so nearly got that goal too, but for some heroic goalkeeping which has been a long time in coming. At that point you knew that we would FINALLY be keeping a clean sheet and with Lyon winning 3-1 against the Danes, our place in the last 24 of the Europa League was secured, a far better competition to be in than the Conference League…not just because of the colours used. And there is the impact of GVB. One game in, he has already secured us an extra 2 million. What a great start, and the signs look good on the back of this game.

Here is how you rated our players from our Europa League win at home to Sparta.

Allan McGregor – 7.5 (8)

Rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated…by a lot of us. It felt like such a long time since we had seen him pull off a superb save in a game which made a difference, but he did so here in incredible fashion. Sparta were doing all they could to try and get a goal back in what could have proven crucial to the groups context, but a hit toward goal was parried by McGregor before he managed to knock away a rebound with his feet. An incredible piece of agility which kept that crucial 2 goal advantage in tact, and a moment that will be added to some of the best he has had for this club. A brilliant moment for him, as well as a much sought after clean sheet.

James Tavernier – 6.8 (7)

One of the best qualities of his game is his use of the ball, but oddly this was far worse here. Whether it was slack giving away of possession, or crosses that were much poorer than normal, or even passes back to his keeper that were needlessly hard, we had a whole array of examples of this. All the same, this was more than made up for by his work as a defender. He did not lose a single duel and managed to recover the ball on a few occasions as well.

Connor Goldson – 6.9 (7)

This was a bit more like it. He went back to basics, made himself more imposing and certainly made plenty of improvements from his previous outings. It was by no means perfect, there are still plenty of things he is doing that seem so far away from his incredible 20/21 season, but the early signs are there that the new coaching staff are able to make a positive impact on the defence, as well as the attack.

Calvin Bassey – 7.9 (8)

That positive impact can absolutely be talked about when it comes to the performance of Calvin Bassey here, as this was a truly superb display for a guy playing out of his preferred position. This was a display that had the perfect level of composure and aggression, coming forward with the ball or staying back, and so much better communication as well. Prague had attacking spells in both halves, but on so many occasions Calvin was the guy who would break it up. Considering how much he struggled in the same position the last time these teams met, this was simply sensational from a player who really needs to keep his place in the team, wherever the position may be.

Borna Barisic – 6.4 (7)

There wasn’t a whole lot you could say about him as an attacking force, but I still think he has been rated a bit harsh here as, like Tav, the defensive work from the full back was good. Many would see him as not being first choice as things stand, which is a shame as we know how good he can be, but whilst the likes of Balogun and Helander are out, he needs to take advantage of the games he gets to prove he should be kept in. Based on this alone, though, you would be struggling to justify that.

Steven Davis – 6.7 (7)

This felt like a game of two halves for Davis. In the first he didn’t do an awful lot, and I wonder if part of that was down to adapting to the slight difference in shape, but he did win the ball back a few times within that. The second half was classic top level Davo, keeping the tempo up, setting moves going, and being very difficult to get past. This was up to the point where Sparta had their latter spell of pressure, by which time it made sense for him to be eventually subbed off.

Glen Kamara – 7.8 (8)

For so many reasons, it is absolutely wonderful to see Glen Kamara have an absolute stormer here. I was curious to see how he would do playing slightly deeper, in a different set up, but it’s safe to say he is going to be absolutely fine. Covering so much of the field looking to win the ball back, and when in possession of it he was so cool. A criticism often levelled at him was his inability to consistently bring the ball forward and be an attacking asset. Perhaps what we have seen here is that in fact that’s not what he should be doing to have the best performance. On the odd occasion he might, but his primary role is to be that solid central figure. This system allows him to be that player more. This is very encouraging.

Ianis Hagi – 6.6 (7)

He may well feel frustrated by a lot of his evening here, but he plays a crucial part in us taking the lead which should be highly celebrated. The ball is brought forward from the midfield and looks to have gotten away from Hagi, but he gets in ahead of the Sparta defender to almost slide tackle pass into the path of Morelos who does the rest. There was some interchange between him and Aribo, but most of the time he was on, Ianis found himself on the right. For what we want to do, I wonder whether he is fast enough to play this role, or whether it is more important to have that fluidity and a different option in that respect.

Joe Aribo – 6.9 (7)

In both halves, Aribo had brilliant chances to score and when we say we could easily have won by more, these are the moment we allude to. Lack of composure in the area, whether from the ball on the right that he lifts over, or being through on goal and hitting it wide. That being said, this felt a lot more natural seeing him higher up the park in the centre. It definitely feels like his better role in the side, and he showed some nice moments in the build up play to suggest this will make a lot more sense for him in the long term.

Ryan Kent – 7.0 (7)

Aribo was not the only one who had a clear cut chance. Early in the second half, Kent did a great job to break into the area and it looked a certainty that he would score, but the shot was easy enough for the keeper to block. I did think that he was looking very dangerous in the wide area, which is clearly what GVB wants to see from Ryan now as opposed to the more inside forward role of before.

Alfredo Morelos – 8.4 (8) – Man of the Match

Some of his best performances for us have come on this stage, and he was the key protagonist here with two goals born of this new approach to our main forward that they should be in the box as often as possible. The first goal, which great set up by Hagi makes it, is a cool first time finish and he is in the right position to take advantage of the work done by Ianis. Being in the right position is very much the case for the second goal, with the Sparta defender Panaking (deliberate misspell, if you know you know) and attempting a cross field ball which Morelos simply heads in, thanks to again staying up the park. I think it is important for him to play like this, he is a natural finisher and I believe he will find far more success in front of goal playing like this. The Roy Makaay influence on him could be huge.

Nathan Patterson – 6.0 (6)

This was very interesting seeing him come on to play on the right, something he would not have been able to do during the previous set up, but so much of this idea makes total sense. What this allows is for interchange between him and Tavernier, and given both can do the good aspects of both sides of the game, the transition is seamless. A lot of people wondered how both could play in the same team as both are good enough to start. Here is your answer.

Fashion Sakala – 5.1 (5)

By the time the rest of the subs came on, it was all about holding out for the 2-0 win, so there was very little to discuss on his game other than the fact that he will likely be a winger for us than a striker, although he could easily play that role too if need be.

Scott Arfield – 4.6 (5)

I can see Gio really liking Arfield as an option for him as he could do a number of different roles in this set up. And for games like this, someone to bring that extra burst of energy can go a long way for a manager.

John Lundstram – 4.4 (5)

Extra solidity in the defensive midfield area near the end, a sensible move, but his long term future could be an interesting one to keep an eye on knowing what we now know about our style.

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