Match Ratings – Rangers 3-0 Livingston

folder_openMatch Ratings, Rangers FC

A new season begins for Rangers as we close the chapter on one of the most memorable campaigns in Rangers’ history and look ahead to the 2021/22 Scottish Premiership with hopes even greater success, results and performances. Whether the leagues new sponsor is something worth reading into over how easy this league campaign will be, the early noises from across the city suggest that if we just focus on improving ourselves, the league could well be a cinch. But it is vital that we do not rest on our laurels. We can, and should, only be focussing on what we do as a team, and our first competitive game of the season, after a pre season that saw us come up against a mix of different levels of side which helped us see areas that need improving as well as plenty of positives, and a memorable scoreline against Real Madrid no less, was against Livingston, who everyone knew would be stuffy, hard to play the way we would like to play against, and a manager who, whilst being able to respect his opponents, was not going to simply make it easy for us. Our line up was fairly similar to the one we saw most often last season, a few alternatives in defence getting a run out as well as a new signing up front, and I think that at this time of year it is always worth remembering that teams will mix and match as the number of ties in a short period of time is huge. We have a massive game in mid week against a higher level of opposition in the Champions League qualifiers, so not seeing the likes of Borna Barisic or Filip Helander here will be with that trip to Sweden in mind.

The atmosphere electric with the stadium moving much closer to full capacity once again (it may well be the last time there need be a reduced crowd) the game started well for us with some good intent on show, with Rangers getting the early lead from a set piece that was eventually struck home. That free kick award came from one of a number of fouls that we were subjected to in the opening stages, which eventually resulted in our opening goal scorer having to depart in the first half. This was part of the reason why the tempo of the game would drop and it would not be until later in the second half where we would find our momentum again to secure the tie. We hit a spell where we were misplacing some passes, not playing the better ball and holding onto possession for that extra second too long, and the crowd was beginning to grow frustrated at the number of slip ups which, at 1-0, will always make you more tense. But, with a defence as secure as ours, we need not have been so concerned, and we managed to find that second with a beautifully curled shot in the box after a number of players had chances in the box. We got our third goal just toward the end of the game when the Livingston defence switched off and our substitute forward pounced to make the scoreline more respectable for an opening day, something we as a club have never really done a lot of in previous seasons. A result that, had you offered it to all Rangers fans pre match, we would have absolutely taken. And our 20th league win at home in a row, a new record.

Here is how you rated our players from our first league match of the new campaign.

Jon McLaughlin – 6.7 (7)

The manager had made reference to the idea that our two senior goalkeepers would be sharing more of the responsibility for being our last line of defence this season, and I don’t think any Rangers fan would have a problem with that. Even though there is far less work for a keeper to do on the field, the stamina required to be at your absolute best for the full 90 is something that does need to be managed. At league level, you can have absolutely no concerns over what McLaughlin will give you, comfortable on the ball and commands his area when required. On this day, he was not tested properly, but when he is I’m confident he will stand up to it.

James Tavernier – 7.6 (8)

It was interesting to see just how much attacking responsibility he takes on when you are watching Tavernier live. We all know exactly how he wants to play, and it’s even more impressive in the flesh, how his energy does not diminish at all. His shot was the first of the game and with it being so early, it was a real signal of intent. Attacking output is what he does, and despite not putting the ball in the net himself, he set up two of our goals. A free kick from the right which found Hagi at the back post, it may well not have been aimed for Ianis but all the same a great delivery. Later on, a ball in the air in the box was nodded down by Tav and was finished by Wright. He did have the chance to convert from a free kick but it was well saved. Looks like the skipper is going to be very important for us yet again.

Connor Goldson – 7.3 (7)

It’s difficult to properly assess a centre back in a game where his team have really not been tested, but from the brief moments where Livingston had the ball in the final third, Goldson stood up to the challenge. Their forward Bruce Anderson really tried to cause Goldson issues but Connor was having none of it, handling him easily. When they look back on the game they will rue the one chance they had from a corner early on that went wide. When you are up against as good a defence as ours, you need to take those chances.

Leon Balogun – 6.7 (7)

The only blot on the defences copy book was an early mix up between Goldson and Balogun where both of them went for the same ball. I would put the blame on Leon for this one as, for me, it was clearly Goldson’s ball to deal with, but thankfully this lapse did not cost us. Otherwise I thought Balogun was fine, and he is another that we can expect will feature more in domestic games as part of a rotation of players during a busy schedule.

Calvin Bassey – 7.2 (7)

What I’ve always really liked about Calvin Bassey, as well as his fantastic on field attitude, is the power of his running. Because he is naturally so strong, when he gets into stride he becomes very hard to stop. His intent in getting forward is great, and we saw some good runs down the left. His issue is with his delivery from crosses. He tried to put in some low balls which were easily intercepted, and his deeper crossing didn’t find the intended targets, apart from one cross to Wright that was unfortunate not to be an assist. Even at the end, he was getting forward, so I think we may see more of him this campaign and we are going to see some great improvements. The question is, do we try and mould him into a Borna style left back with the added strength, or do we focus and improve on what he is already good at?

Glen Kamara – 7.1 (7)

See when he does the wee feints he does to bamboozle his opponent and keep possession? I love it when he does that. Just a wee move that gives us more time on the ball to then open up and create things, it just shows how important a midfielder he is for us, for a long time to come hopefully. That’s where he is at his best, in the centre. We have seen him score a few times, but in the box is not his strong point, as was perhaps proven with a miss right at the end that people could not believe he didn’t convert. Certainly the likes of Aribo and Defoe were keen to remind him of that at the end as well. I really liked seeing that bit of ribbing, thankfully that did not cost the team!

Steven Davis – 7.7 (8)

He was given the man of the match in the stadium and that could well be a common thing this season if he plays like he did on Saturday. When you see Davis in the starting line up, you know he is going to be the controller, he will set the tempo and he will find himself in so many areas of the field. He was in both boxes so many times during the game, and on this evidence there is no sign of him slowing down any time soon.

Joe Aribo – 6.4 (6)

Back playing in the middle three which is something I’ve never really taken to with Aribo as I think he works far better when he is playing in the front three. I say this because I think his attacking instincts are really good, and he was unlucky with a shot just after the first goal that their keeper had to tip wide, before a header in the area was also blocked. So, in the early part of the game he was getting into some good attacking positions, and providing an extra attacking threat, so maybe that would prove my doubts on him as a centre mid wrong? The issue was when the game’s tempo dropped, so did Aribo’s, and he then got into the habit of holding onto the ball for too long, not being quick enough in executing moves, and eventually it resulted in his early departure from the game. He showed quality, but he also showed some old habits I always attribute to when he plays in the midfield.

Ianis Hagi – 7.0 (7)

The first goal of the new season was scored by one of my real favourites, Ianis Hagi. Having been left unmarked at the back post, Tavernier’s free kick turned into the perfect cross into the Romanian’s feet, and rather than hitting it first time he waited, cut onto his right, and smashed the ball in when the angle was right. It’s a really nice and clever finish you only get from a quality player who many believe will really push on again this season. The fact he was so isolated for the goal is even more surprising when it was clear that Livingston were targeting him when he was in possession, with some hefty challenges resulting in him having to come off after only half an hour. The fact he could walk off is a positive in that he will hopefully not be out for too long, but all the same it was a shame to see him leave so soon.

Fashion Sakala – 6.2 (6)

He has impressed so many in the build up to this season with the way he has shown up in friendlies, as well as his magnificent attitude, and some would even call him a fan favourite already. No one was really surprised by the idea of him leading the line in this game, but what we saw here was also surprising for many, in not so good a way. He must have been caught offside a good four times, and it was quite obvious that he was not going to benefit from deep crosses in against much larger centre backs. Many would have expected more from him here, but perhaps this is a lesson for Gerrard that in games like these he may offer more threat in the wide attacking role instead.

Ryan Kent – 7.1 (7)

He had plenty of shots over the course of this game, from a load of different areas of the box, but it never led to anything of note in the end. His problem was down to the fact Livingston were so compact at the back (and in the middle) that the chance for him to run into space was very limited. The chances he did get to do that, he looked a real threat, but I actually think part of Martindale’s game plan would have been to not let Kent have that kind of space in front of him. When teams are more open (Real Madrid for example) then a player like Kent will absolutely shine.

Scott Wright – 7.9 (8) – Man of the Match

Comes on to replace the injured Hagi and fate seemed to allow him the chance to prove his worth after a very productive pre season for the winger. From the get go, his intent was clear and obvious but the execution of that was wanting at first. But it got so much better and he would end up scoring a crucial and well deserved goal. The manager wants him to add goals to his game this season, and a shot from the edge of the box and a header from a Bassey cross were two great chances to get that goal. But, with the ball in the Livingston box for a long spell, Tavernier heads the ball toward Wright, who manages to hit a shot with the outside of his right foot and make the ball curl into the side of the goal. This was a quality finish from him, and it just shows that he is someone who deserves to feature prominently for us this season. Be prepared for Scott Wright to become an extremely familiar face in the Rangers side.

John Lundstram – 6.4 (7)

With the need for us to create a bit more through the middle, Steven Gerrard brought on another new recruit in John Lundstram, and it did not take long before everyone watching could see that the ex Sheffield United player can make a huge difference in terms of solidifying the centre. He dropped deep to make sure Livingston’s attacking substitutes couldn’t test our keeper, and going forward he played a number of really clever passes as well as being unlucky with a shot. He is probably the biggest example of how much squad depth we have, the fact that a player of that quality didn’t start is quite something. I expect him to be a regular, especially in the big games.

Kemar Roofe – 6.8 (7)

Not being available for Europe through suspension, it was initially a surprise to see Roofe not start here, but taking into account him being absent for the friendlies last week suggests starting him here would not have helped with any sort of recovery. That said, adding that extra attacking spark did just the trick for us as a loose ball in the box was pounced on by Kemar to secure the deserved scoreline with an easy finish, but the credit he deserves for attacking the ball should be great. He will hope to start the league game away at Dundee United next Saturday, because there are plenty of attacking options available and only three spaces that can be filled.

Tags: player ratings

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