Rangers finally delivered a convincing win at Hampden, and booked our first League Cup final place in some 8 years, after victory over a rudder-less Hearts side. Despite not taking advantage of a dominant spell in the first half, we grabbed a goal at an ideal moment right before half time, which set the tone for an excellent second half display, which our supporters responded to in kind, making for a memorable Sunday at the national stadium.
Allan McGregor – 7
In the main, a fairly quiet afternoons work once again. But, on the odd occasion where he did need to look alive, he was there to keep Hearts at bay. I think he also makes a good contribution to our attacking play at times as well though, his kicking is much better than what I think he gets credit for.
James Tavernier – 8
This was beginning to look more like the kind of Tavernier performance that we’ve come to expect. Now, in the first half we did see him continue some bad habits of crossing for crosses sake (he was not the worst culprit for this mind you) but what he did in the second half to change things was advance more toward the byline and cut back, so he is now starting to think about his distribution options rather than going into automatic mode. By doing this, he sets up goal number 2 which is the sucker punch in the tie. And there wasn’t the same defensive woe either. More like it for sure.
Connor Goldson – 7
The two factors that we tend to look at when it comes to Connor Goldson are his passing and, more importantly, his defending. Firstly on his ball work, it was mixed. He played some very good diagonal balls, but he also played some woeful passes, one or two putting us in unnecessary danger. On his defensive work, although Hearts didn’t have too much in the way of attacks, the thing that sticks out most in my mind is them winning two headers from corners, with at least one being his man, so that is a worry. But, he did put in some decent enough challenges and the stand out from his game was his sense of calm when their players tried to rile him up, it just wasn’t going to happen.
Filip Helander – 8
With a minute to go in the first half, and Rangers having won another corner, the fans surrounding the majority of Hampden were keen for their team to take advantage of the situation and score at a most opportune moment. “Opportune” is an ideal word to describe Helander when it comes to our first goal. He makes a run into an empty space in the box, one which no Hearts defender clocks, and finishes well first time in front of the keeper. The pressure that puts on the Gorgie coaching staff to quickly rethink their half time talk is invaluable to how the second half plays out. Outwith the goal, there were times that I thought he looked a bit ‘Bambi on Ice’ on the ball, but you can’t say that overall he didn’t do his job.
Borna Barisic – 7
I wonder if we will ever see a time where both Tavernier and Barisic have really good days? Is it even possible? Now it should be made very clear that I’m not saying Barisic was bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, but rather I felt he was quieter than in recent games. He was still getting forward, but it was more so from him that we saw aimless balls into the box which never amounted to anything. What I did like from him was his continued drive late on in the game, he made about three or four runs down the left flank in open space, and although it didn’t amount to anything, you can tell he is thinking so much better now, and has been for a good month.
Ryan Jack – 9
I’m running out of things to say about how good Ryan Jack is. So, I guess I can say that another of his qualities is his consistency. He doesn’t let up at any point, he demands his teammates to rise up to his level, and he never EVER hides. He gets booked for getting involved with Steven Naismith (boo) but frankly he should get a knighthood for such acts. If he stays at this kind of level of performance, mind you, we may well one day hear the phrase “arise Sir Ryan”.
Steven Davis – 9
From a potential future knight of the realm to a current MBE, but this was another silky, classy performance from a player I feel so fortunate to be able to see in the flesh. He continues to show the two key aspects of his game so well, his tracking back to win the ball (always fairly by the way, you hardly ever see him booked, if ever) and then his eye to pick the right pass so often and set the tone for what we do. When we play so well, it’s often because Steven Davis is on it.
Glen Kamara – 8
Although his was the least inspired of the three midfield performances, I was still very impressed with Kamara, particularly as the game went on. In games like this, high stakes or higher level of opponent, he is the ideal choice to play on the left of the middle three, for both his dribbling and physical nature in tracking back to support the defence. But what was also impressive was the balls he played to Barisic down the left. Although it took him a wee while to warm up to the idea, once he was used to it he was picking out some expert balls, a very good midfield display.
Sheyi Ojo – 7
I had the chance to view Ojo at close range this time, and one thing I did see, whenever he collected the ball, there can sometimes be a look of panic on his face, almost as though he needs a lot more time to think about what he wants to do. The sad fact is he will not be afforded such time on the ball as a Rangers player, so he had better get used to that fact. But, here’s the interesting thing, in the second half I think he told himself to ‘just play’ and not think about it so much, and when he did, I thought he put in a really solid second half performance. Yes, in the first half he lost us possession too many times, and he didn’t cut inside and take on a shot enough (he did once so it’s not look the management team told him not to) but he is still young and is still learning. And there are a lot of things that people can say about Sheyi Ojo that were said about another winger we had on loan from Liverpool last season…
Alfredo Morelos – 9 – Man of the Match
Two goals. One assist. Christophe Berra looking absolutely shattered. You cannot expect any more from a striker in a game like this. Or, in the case of Alfredo Morelos, you cannot expect any less it seems. The presence of mind to play the ball across the box for Helander to tap in, excellent. The determination to get on the end of Tavernier’s low cross to make it 2-0, wonderful. The skill to take the ball at a difficult angle and smash it into the net to settle the game completely, sublime. Mentality, drive & ability. Just some of the reasons why we are so lucky to have the Colombian up top. And the way he treats Steven Naismith (boo) tells you another thing. He gets us. He gets Rangers. And he is loving every minute of it. Alfredo, mate, we are loving it too.
Ryan Kent – 9
In the first period of the game I wanted Ryan Kent to take charge of our attacking play and be more creative. Cut inside, take a shot or play a deft pass into feet. Just mix things up in regard to our attacking play. He didn’t do this as much as I would have hoped, but you can see that Hearts are aware of his threat and are making sure they have that side of the field covered. So to set up the third goal the way he does, dancing past the Jambo’s rearguard like its nothing, and playing the ball for Morelos to do the rest, was sublime. He also plays an important part in the opening goal too. Would have been easy for him to just whip in a cross from that position, but he plays the simple pass for Morelos. Another player who is quickly growing a presence of mind.
Joe Aribo – 7
Comes on to play in the right sided attacking role, and looked not too bad I thought. Clearly he is wanted in a more advanced position in bigger games, and he is good on the ball and wants to create things. Hard to do much though when you could see that both Rangers and Hearts were beginning to settle for the idea of a 3-0 score line.
Scott Arfield – 6
Replaces Ryan Jack and has the impossible task of trying to emulate that performance in the middle of the park. He didn’t. And hasn’t put in a great shift all season (from memory) so for now, with the team playing so well, his appearances should be limited to cameos off the bench.
Jermain Defoe – 6
Playing up top with Morelos, I was desperate for either to score because I thought they would have had some sort of fancy celebration planned, but alas it wasn’t to be. One or two cracks at goal which didn’t trouble a shaky looking Hearts keeper (on loan for Man United, what!?) but again, hard to do a great deal to impress when the game is practically over.
Player ratings from an embarrassing night at Ibrox.