A reaction was required, and a reaction is exactly what we got as Rangers returned to Ibrox to face Hearts in a game fans travelled to still sore from what took place in mid week. With a number of changes made to the starting 11, it was clear that Giovanni van Bronckhorst was looking for the spark in this side to be reignited, and this would be a good test of our teams credentials against one of the better sides in the Premiership. What was really encouraging for the fans watching was that there was immediately signs of us being far more on the front foot. We were closing down a lot faster, and being a lot more efficient with our work rate in winning the ball back and getting things moving. The support in Ibrox on Sunday was immediately on the side of the players, and this paid off when a ball down the left flank was crossed in to be slid home by our returning striker. We kept pushing for a second, being very unlucky on a couple of occasions not to have found the net again in the first half, with the game eventually slowing down due to some erratic refereeing, more of which would occur in the second half, to ludicrous levels.
Hearts had a couple of good chances at the start of the second half, with our defence not looking at all settled, and given our recent form the fans were desperate to see us grab a second goal. We did courtesy of our striker once again, very much doing all the work in smashing home from just outside the area. With our momentum on the up, our goal scorer would turn provider as he played a great through ball for our substitute midfielder who found himself in on goal, and he finished calmly for a rare goal of his own. Our attacking midfielder, playing wider than before, finished his game off with a deserved goal at the second attempt, before another substitute, this time in attack, completed the rout after our winger played him in for an easy finish. The scoreline is one thing, and should be celebrated for sure, but the performance from the team as a whole was so much more like the thing, so much more what we as fans expect. There was stronger, better challenges, there was a shape to the team that made sense, a players role was far more obvious and even when we were heavily in front, we kept looking to score more goals. A lot of reactionary comment from the aftermath of Wednesday will have disappeared now I am sure.
Here is how you rated our players from our strong performance against Hearts.
Allan McGregor – 6.7 (7)
Three shots he had to face in the whole game, and he was equal to them all. A more than welcome clean sheet for him, and us, after a difficult couple of games. Talk of him needing to be benched following those games was just non-sensical. He is still definitely our number one, and even on quieter days, can be relied upon when needed.
James Tavernier – 6.9 (7)
There were definitely other players who stood out far more than what Tav did here, but being a part of a defence that keeps a clean sheet and an attack that scored 5 is still a good days work for him all the same. It’s quite a rare thing for him to not be involved in any of the goals when we score as many, but as stated, other players took the spotlight this time.
Connor Goldson – 6.8 (7)
There was a good and a bad part of Goldson’s game here I thought. The good was his defending, the job he is there to do first and foremost. A few times in the box he had to deal with a potential Hearts move and he did his job in that respect. What was bad was his use of the ball. Too often the forward pass he would play would be unnecessary and cause us to lose possession. But everything levelled out for him to have had a fine enough game.
Leon Balogun – 7.2 (8)
It was a welcome return to the starting line up for Balogun who looked at home once again in the defence. Able to close down quickly and challenge well, when he is the aggressor he looks far better. His booking is ridiculous and only comes from the referee seeing the reaction from the Hearts player after initially looking to wave play on. How he goes from one extreme to the other is baffling. But a good days work for Leon.
Calvin Bassey – 6.7 (7)
Retaining his place in the side but returning to play at left back, this was another game where things levelled themselves out. He looked very unsure at the start of the second half, failing to deal with the ball at all and giving Hearts a really good opportunity to equalise, only for them to waste the chance. He settled down after that and it was an easy enough game in the end, but his pass that helped set up the opening goal was superb and it was telling that players went to celebrate with him as well as Morelos, even though it wasn’t actually the assist. It’s a side of his game he is good at, and should be nurtured well and properly.
Ryan Jack – 7.7 (8)
Proving to everyone why he should absolutely be a starter for us whenever fit. He wanted the ball at his feet whenever possible, looking to be the player to set forward moves going, always the one to win those second balls, and just helped the shape of our side look far more comfortable with his presence. You just hope that his subbing off after a challenge that referee failed to penalise was not something that will keep him out of the side.
John Lundstram – 7.6 (8)
To a lot of fans turning up to the game, this inclusion would have been seen as a big surprise, but in actual fact this was probably the best game that he has played for us. The enforcer role is something we have felt would suit him best and he showed a lot of examples as to why, challenging for the ball time and again, not giving up on retrieving the ball, and even had a fantastic forward run that could have led to one of the best goals of the season from him. This is a very encouraging sign, and that partnership could well be something that has a lot of legs in it.
Joe Aribo – 6.7 (7)
Nothing in the way of actual output, but what was most interesting about Aribo here was his positioning. His versatility allowed us to switch things up when required, as he would sometimes play as the central midfielder with the two others sitting behind, or he would move to the left to create a more flat midfield three. He will be really important for us in the coming months, even if he doesn’t have quite the same impact in a game, such as here.
Scott Arfield – 7.7 (8)
He got progressively better as the game went on, culminating in a goal right before being subbed off, an ideal way to sign off for the afternoon! Playing more on the right, he offered a different style of wide attacker to what we got on the left, it was, as you would expect from Arfield, a lot more about off the ball movement and being in the right spaces. He receives the ball from Kent in the box and his initial shot is blocked, but he is able to react first and dispatch the ball home to get our 4th goal of the game.
Ryan Kent – 8.1 (8)
His work rate was never in question, what was most criticised was his output. This was changed however when he was directly involved in three of our goals here. He sets up the opener, a well hit ball from the left for Morelos to pounce on. He then plays a the very smart pass into Arfield for our fourth, before providing the assist for Sakala’s goal late on. This was so much better, a far more complete performance in respect of direct contributions. It was very much a sign of the old Kent returning.
Alfredo Morelos – 9.1 (9) – Man of the Match
This was what we were missing recently. This complete level of performance. This absolute leader of the line display. The goals, sliding in to score our first and his second a solo effort he smashes in with his left, were so deserved for the effort and energy he gave us. His pass to set up the third is also exquisite, playing the perfect ball for Kamara to run onto and finish. We have a few players who can play that role, but none of them can do what Morelos does which is combine each of the individual highlights of each of the other players and combine them into the complete package. This was a superb display, which will hopefully be the start of a great run of games from him.
Glen Kamara – 6.7 (7)
A Glen Kamara goal feels a bit like a collectors item, but this was a cool finish given the time he has to think about what he is going to do. It’s interesting to see him make that forward run in the first place, it’s not the first thing you think of when describing his game. But he does the business, and the game is over as a contest at that point.
Aaron Ramsey – 5.8 (6)
It still seems quite surreal that Aaron Ramsey is playing for us. The ovation he received was like a returning heroes, and no wonder given the excitement we all have for him being with us. He didn’t need to do a huge amount here, but the quality levels he showed during his brief appearance here gives us plenty to look forward to from him over the coming months.
Fashion Sakala – 6.9 (7)
Rounds off the scoring with a smart finish in the area, remembered mostly for his celebration, clearly paying homage to the games man of the match! When you think about it, if his role is to mainly be a super sub, he is a quality option for us to have in that respect. Fast, energetic and able to finish, that could be how he helps us the most this season.
Amad Diallo – 5.1 (5)
I think it was right to not have him start here but good for him to get some fresh minutes under his belt, and I am sure we will see him feature in the starting line up again in the coming weeks.
Steven Davis – 5.1 (5)
A long awaited return to action for Steven Davis, he has not featured a huge amount under van Bronckhorst so far, but you wonder whether his main role will be as a player who can come on in games when we need a different dynamic in the centre.