European nights at Ibrox are always occasions to be looked forward to. Watching our team play under the floodlights, with the standard of opponent being higher than our usual domestic affair, it’s something we as a fanbase strive for our club to achieve season on season. We are far too big a club to not have these experiences. And yet, given the fact that this season’s European campaign would be a very different experience with worldly events, a number of fans would have (I’m sure) at some level felt that not making it to the group stages of this season’s competition would not have been a disaster. That does not stand up to the sheer elation from the support following our victory over Turkish giants Galatasaray, as we made it to the draw in Nyon on Friday for the third season in a row, a draw in which we paired up with Benfica, Standard Liege and Lech Poznan, a group we should feel confident about doing very well in. An absolutely wonderful achievement from the team, and oh how we wish we could have been in the stadium to enjoy that moment with the players. The fact we all watched on RTV, with the perfect panel to talk through the match, still made the night a special one, but there will always be that slightly tragic element to this historic occasion. Not that we should dwell on this, we can only look to the positives and be so proud of our side for taking out our toughest opponent yet in the qualifiers since Steven Gerrard has taken charge of the side, and the financial benefits the club will receive as a result give us plenty more wiggle room with the transfer window fast approaching it’s shutting point.
The game started well from a Rangers point of view. We looked like we had more drive, more intensity, but after failing to capitalise on this early on, Galatasaray looked more comfortable with the ball and were allowed to play their game, despite not testing McGregor a great deal of course. We needed more counter attacking threat but we were lacking in that department due to poor decision making from our forwards, either not shooting or passing at the right moments or being in offside positions. The second half looked like the kind of big European performance that we are now becoming accustomed to under Gerrard. Solid at the back, controlling the game in the middle and slick passing moves which ultimately saw us grab two sucker punch blows and despite a late concession we saw it through to record yet another fantastic victory in Europe.
Here is how you rated our players from this victory.
Allan McGregor – 6.7 (7)
Galatasaray did not offer the attacking threat that the paper their names were written on suggested, therefore this was a much quieter European game than Willem II was in the end, as surprising as that seems. On the occasions that Gala did threaten, McGregor was more than comfortable in handling and, like Motherwell, the goal conceded is no fault of Allan’s. It’ll feel easier in these upcoming group games to have someone as experienced and talented between the sticks as this man here.
James Tavernier – 9.4 (9) – Man of the Match
Both in this game and in recent weeks, the performance levels of James Tavernier have not only been outstanding, but heartening in equal measure. He, more than any other player in the squad, is aware of how hard it can be when the team is at it’s lowest ebb, and so many of us want him to experience the successful times, we are willing him to succeed and lately he has been the driving force behind our very solid run. Speaking of runs, how he finds himself that far up the park to get his head on the Barisic cross defies old style football comprehension. He is a right back come striker, runs up and down the park endlessly, and as well as scoring the key goal and beginning the move that led to the first, he didn’t have too much bother against Ryan Babel either. What a run of for he has been on, it’s simply incredible, and no player deserved a player of the month award more than him.
Connor Goldson – 7.9 (8)
In no way was he a problem at the start, but this was a game that Goldson grew into, and by the end he was totally dominant. A couple of times he would slip or misplace a pass which had our hearts in our mouths, but otherwise his first half was best described by the unlucky header that was cleared off the line by the Gala defender. In the second half, once we got on the scoresheet, that touch of nerves (which I certainly felt as well in fairness) evaporated and from here on in it was more and more straightforward. As Galatasaray brought on more and more attacking players, none of them were able to threaten Goldson. By the end of the game the total level of class Goldson is capable of was on full show. Top stuff from the big man, and yet he still wasn’t the stand out centre back…
Filip Helander – 8.2 (8)
Connor Goldson and Filip Helander is the best centre back partnership we have seen in nearly a decade. We have said for a while how Goldson is the number 1 defender, but Helander is now beginning to flex his muscles in that respect, and it now feels an equal share for that title of numero uno. ‘Big Swede’ completed dominated Falcao, gave the Colombian star no joy whatsoever, it was an absolute breeze for “ABBA” (we need to settle on a nickname for him, help me out here). Given his consistent displays he would surely be someone to put up as a player of the month option, he has been wonderfully consistent. He is a top quality defender and is forming an amazing centre back pairing.
Borna Barisic – 6.9 (7)
His best moment of the game was setting up the second goal with his cross which Tavernier got his head to. That goal was actually a brilliant team move which he is a part of, so much credit to the whole side, as well as the coaching staff, for seeing that come to fruition, it should absolutely be up there for one of the goals of the season. From Borna’s perspective, however, this was a quieter night. No outstanding balls, a fair few crosses were mishit and not giving our forward players a chance. He also had a busier time of dealing with his winger in Sofiane Feghouli, who had more joy than Babel, so in both ways Barisic was overshadowed by his right sided counterpart. The wait for the next outstanding Borna game continues.
Scott Arfield – 8.5 (8)
Scott Arfield is the Duracell Bunny. Other battery providers are available (I think) but Arfield lasts for longer, much longer. He is fed the ball in the box and there was little doubt in our minds that he was going to finish that off and put our side ahead, a scenario he is very comfortable with. I’m not sure there are many other players in our team you would want to be in that position. His calmness in front of goal in situations like that is great, and it was about time that we tested their secondary goalkeeper. His performances of late, like a number of our players, have been superb. There is little coincidence that this comes at the same time as a lengthy period without playing for his national team. Can we say for certain that he will get much worse if he does play for Canada any time soon? We cannot, but what we have seen in the past is a dip in form when international breaks have taken place, and a rise in form when they have not.
Steven Davis – 7.8 (7)
There is nothing I can say which has not been said about Steven Davis recently. I think he gets better as the game goes on, and of course the second half is much better for him and, as a result, us. This system suits him far better. He is a legendary footballer for this club, yet another European campaign awaits him, and if he can be a part of trophy success for us this season, that legendary status would, I believe, be secured.
Glen Kamara – 7.8 (7)
I saw a lot of talk about Glen Kamara being “immense”, which I would suggest is incredibly high praise but this was another very good night for him. Our manager called him “outstanding” however so I will bow to his better knowledge on midfield play without question! He certainly looked comfortable, and his very specific task is one he is very happy to fulfil for a night like this one was, and was heavily involved in the second goal which he should get plenty of credit for. When we talk about potential midfield recruitments, it is likely he is at most risk of losing a place, but for a game like this, you would feel more comfortable with the idea of him playing.
Ianis Hagi – 7.5 (7)
A game with so much pressure on him for a number of reasons. He was due a performance for us in any case, let alone the fact it was against the club which holds real significance for him. Given the game was the 115th anniversary of the founding of Galatasaray, it feels all the more awesome that he played a whole lot better. He certainly lived up to the hype of being “The Son of God”. His tracking back in the first half was noticeable and really important given Galatasaray’s spell of possession. The key moment for him, and the game itself, was his perfectly weighted pass to Arfield. It wasn’t the first time he played a really great pass in the match, but on this occasion it paid off, and set us up for another brilliant feeling in a Europa League match. I always believed that he was well set up for this match, and he proved me absolutely right. Sunday might not be the kind of game for him to flourish in though, and if so I have no issue with him being on the bench again. Special teams and all that.
Alfredo Morelos – 6.1 (6)
We have been gushing praise for a lot of players here and deservedly so, but this was not a good performance for Morelos. I nearly said “not a good night” but of course it was because he was just as happy as the rest of us by making it to the group stages once again. But his positioning on many occasions was not good enough, nor was his decision making in terms of passing and shooting. And far too often he was caught offside needlessly. In the second half he had a few opportunities which he screwed wide. Once is fair enough, but the fact the same move ended the same way a few times makes it more noteworthy. I now think it is highly likely that Morelos stays, with the financial windfall gained from another Euro campaign beyond the qualifiers. That, over a shiny new signing, is something we should feel very happy about.
Ryan Kent – 7.5 (7)
This was a game that again had no real stand out moments from him but his presence was nonetheless important for us. It’s funny how we talked about him and Alfie being the two players who would hold the key to us being successful in this match, and yet neither had the key moments that we perhaps expected. Despite this, Kent is still a player who is so good for this level, and we maybe take for granted that movement on the ball when racing forward, as well as forever being willing to attempt to create things for the side.
Ryan Jack – 5.6 (5)
I was initially going to be critical of him for the goal we conceded due to appearing to duck under the ball from the Galatasaray header. However, on reflection it is down to a deflection that throws our players off the scent of the ball, just has to be put down as one of those things, and thankfully it can as it had no overall impact on our successful night. Good to have him back in the team as an option, however you have to say that he does not merit a return to starting matches based on who is in front of him and how they have been playing lately.
Cedric Itten – 5.4 (5)
A brief cameo with the intention of holding up the ball. We won the game so you can only say that this tactic worked! Despite rarely featuring, he still gets a call up for Switzerland. Just goes to show that he is viewed by them as an important part of their progression.