The match between Kilmarnock and Rangers was played on January 24th. It was the first match for Rangers in 2019. Rangers were supposed to play Scottish Cup tie against Cowdenbeath on 18th January, but that match was postponed. This match was very important for both sides. Before the match, Kilmarnock were in third position with 41 points. Rangers were equal with Celtic. Both teams had 42 points. Celtic had played 20 matches and these two teams, 21 matches.
The game was very important for the championship race. In the first match at Ibrox, it was 1-1. In January, two new players joined Rangers. Two well-known players, Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis. Defoe joined Rangers on 6 January 2019 on an 18-month loan. Davis was signed on a six-month loan by Rangers. Davis already played for Rangers between 2008 and 2012.
Kilmarnock played in a 4-1-4-1 formation. This season, Rangers usually play in a 4-3-3 formation. But, in this match against Kilmarnock, Gerrard used a 4-4-2 diamond formation. That was the first time this season that Rangers have played in this formation. Gerrard put both of new players in first 11. He sacrificed a 4-3-3 formation, to put Defoe in the first 11. Gerrard left Daniel Candeias and Ross McCrorie on the bench. Ryan Kent, who usually plays left-wing, played attacking midfielder in this match.
Shots on target
Rangers dominated the ball, with 57 per cent possession through the game. Rangers entered the game energetically. Rangers pressed high Kilmarnock from the match beginning. After kick off, the ball was in Kilmarnock’s third. Rangers players occupied this area and forced the Kilmarnock player to play long.
Rangers dominated the game at the start. Rangers’ plan was to overload one side and with quick passing combination and out-play Kilmarnock. In the image below, we can see one of these situations. Rangers generally tried to overload their right side. Morelos often came into right side area to help in attacking play. Defoe generally was more static than Morelos. In this situation, Tavernier played a pass to Morelos. Then, Morelos exchanged a one-two pass with Arfield. He stayed alone after that passing combination. In this image below, we can see six players of both teams on the right side of the pitch. Morelos stayed alone and then he tried to play the ball in centre of the pitch.
Rangers tried to play out of the back. Generally, three defensive players stayed in line. Ryan Jack dropped deep to help with the build-up play. In the image below, we can see that situation. Right-back Tavernier moved higher. The two centre-backs and left back Halliday stayed back. Jack dropped deep and these four players formed a pattern.
Sometimes, left-back Halliday moved higher too. In that situation, centre midfielder Davis dropped deeper to help with build-up play. He took Halliday’s position on the left side. In the image below, we can see that situation.
As we said, in the first part of the first half, Rangers dominated the game. They overloaded one side, usually right side and then wanted to switch the play. Also, they overloaded one side and then went long to that side and tried to win the second ball. In the image below, we can see the situation in which goalkeeper McGregor distributed the ball. Again, Rangers players overloaded the right side and after that, tried to win the second ball. Nine players were on the right half of the pitch. Only Halliday stayed on the left half of the pitch.
After winning the second ball, they generally tried to outplay Kilmarnock with quick combinations. Generally, Rangers’ strategy was all about the overloading. And in the first 20 minutes, they played very well.
In the image below, we can see four players in a very tight space. Rangers scored their only goal in this match after overloading. Five players stayed very close to each other. Six Kilmarnock players followed them. Rangers tried to pass the ball to a marked player on the image below. He shot on goal and after the crowd, Defoe scored the goal.
In the first half, Kilmarnock generally played long balls. They do not want to have the ball in their possession. Kilmarnock used a pressing trigger when Rangers players played the ball back. In the image below, we see that situation. The Rangers player played the ball back and then two Kilmarnock players started the press.
Kilmarnock had an interesting pressing scheme. Kilmarnock wanted to catch the Rangers defenders in the trap. Kilmarnock defended in the middle block. Three or four Kilmarnock players stayed higher. They let Rangers defenders feel comfortable on the ball. Then one of these players starts pressing. Generally, Rangers in build-up play, play with three defenders. Usually, Kilmarnock players waited for the centre player in defence passed the ball to one of the wide defenders. In the image below, we can see how that pressing works. Right-winger Burke waited for Worrall pass the ball to Halliday. Then he pressed Halliday and striker Brophy pressed Worrall. They wanted to force Rangers to go long.
In the image above, we see progressing of this pressing. Brophy pressed Worrall who has the ball. Burke marked Halliday. The left-winger took care of McAuley. Two central midfielders moved forward too. They marked Jack and Davis. Kilmarnock caught Rangers in the trap. We can see a five-on-five situation in this image. After the pressing, Worrall made a mistake and Brophy scored a goal.
In the image above, we can see the same situation on the other side. The Kilmarnock left-winger waited for Worrall to pass the ball to McAuley. We can see that he is already ready to press. Striker Brophy scanning the situation. They want to press all defenders and disable their play-out-from-the-back game.
Kilmarnock usually press with four players. The striker and both wingers. Usually, the right-centre midfielder joined them. They rarely stayed in line. They usually were asymmetric and they moved depending on ball circulation. When Rangers break the first pressing line, then Kilmarnock defend in a deep block. Kilmarnock defend in a 4-2-4 formation. Again, the right-centre midfielder Tshibola stayed higher. He formed a line of four together with the wingers and striker.
Rangers defend in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Strikers Defoe and Morelos stayed higher. Kilmarnock were focused on their transition game and pressing. When Kilmarnock had the ball, usually that was not dangerous for Rangers. In the image below, we can see four Kilmarnock players against eight Rangers players.
In the second half, Rangers wanted to win the three points. Rangers attacked with eight players, all except two centre-backs. Kilmarnock’s defence was well-organised and Rangers had a problem to break it down.
Kilmarnock defend in the central area of the pitch. They let Rangers players cross the ball. Like in the first half, they rarely use build-up play. Generally, Kilmarnock players play long-ball when they have a passing option.
In the image above, we see the Kilmarnock player playing long. He had a passing option and they could play out of the back. But they were focused on pressing and counter-attacks. Rangers had problems when dealing with the Kilmarnodefencense in the second half. After counter-attacks, Kilmarnock scored a second goal. We can see that situation in the image below.
After that goal, Rangers were disorganised. Rangers had only two chances, both after set-pieces. Kilmarnock defended deep with all players, usually in a 4-5-1 system. Rangers attack with a 2-5-3 formation, but could not deal with Kilmarnock’s defence. After the goal for 2-1, Kilmarnock did not press any more. Players were concentrated only on defending their goal.
Gerrard gambled with a new, 4-4-2 diamond formation. It did not turn out to be a good move. He sacrificed the 4-3-3 formation for new players, Defoe especially. It was a very important match, three points were very important for Rangers. Kilmarnock were hosts and Kilmarnock are a very good team. Gerrard chose the wrong game for tactical experiment. Kilmarnock played very organised in defence. Rangers were the better team in the first 20 minutes, but after that, Kilmarnock scored a goal. After that, Rangers had problems in dealing deal with Kilmarnock’s defensive play.
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