Rangers Spartak Moscow Europa League Tactical Analysis

Rangers put in a dominant performance, especially in the second half, to win 3-1 against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League. Ibrox was euphoric as the team played some excellent football and showed real determination throughout. Rapid Vienna were physical, quick, and opened the scoring with some luck on their side. Rangers didn’t allow any of that to set them back and they now top their group in the Europa League after two matches. Here is an analysis of how the match unfolded.

Rangers started with Flanagan and Kent replacing Barisic and Lafferty from the weekend. Despite having a new manager, Rapid Vienna kept their same shape, but with a few players replaced from their recent defeat in the league.

FIRST HALF

In the first minute, Rapid showed their intent with a ball over the top for Ivan. He beat Flanagan for pace and saw his cross cleared for a corner. The corner wasn’t fully cleared, and a shot from Ivan was deflected wide. From that set piece, Rangers made a break as Kent sent Morelos clear, but the play ended with a Candeias cross which went wide.

Rangers were pressing high up the pitch and looking to force mistakes from Rapid. In the first 10 minutes, they were winning free-kicks and throw-ins, but couldn’t force much by way of a chance. It meant that the game was played at a high tempo as Rapid looked to settle and move the ball around well. Around 15 minutes into the match, Sonnleitner went long to try and find Ivan, and Tavernier stretched to clear. The ball came off the defender and went towards his own goal, and fortunately went wide.

On the 21st minute, Rapid created a great chance. A ball over the top by Barac found Berisha in behind Tavernier. He held it up well, played it back to Potzmann, and his cross was nodded just wide by Pavlovic. A couple of minutes later, Morelos got free on the left, but his cutback was cleared before Arfield could get to it.

On the 27th minute, Rangers created a good chance as Arfield found some space. His ball wide to Kent meant the wide player could beat his man and stand up a cross. Morelos went to meet it but was just beaten to it by Barac. The clash of heads forced Barac off after he suffered a deep cut near his eye. Vienna were able to see out the few minutes with 10 men as they brought on Dibon.

Rangers were probing, and on 33 minutes almost got some reward from a couple of corners. Vienna defended them well, and Morelos was unable to hit the target with a header under pressure. The game was physical as both sides looked to win battles all over the pitch, and came to life in the last 5 minutes of the half. Around the 40th minute, from a free-kick played in by Tavernier, Morelos was unlucky not to connect better with a header and it was easily saved.

Vienna broke the deadlock on the 41st minute. Ivan was sent clear on the right, and his cutback was deflected into the path of Berisha. The Rapid player had a simple finish to make it 1-0. Replays showed that Ivan was offside in the build-up, though.

Only a minute later Rangers equalised. Some good passing on the right found Kent in space who slipped in Tavernier. His first time found Morelos who stretched to knock the ball in. Rangers certainly didn’t deserve to be behind going into halftime.

SECOND HALF

Rangers started the half with real intent. A lovely touch by Candeias beat the left back and his cross was deflected out for a corner. The set-piece was cleared, but it was evident that the home side was looking to raise the tempo. The pressing, especially from Ejaria, Arfield, Candeias and Kent was much sharper and got Rangers possession in better areas.

Patient play found Tavernier in space on the right on 56 minutes. A nice ball to Arfield was flicked to Kent, who beat 3 defenders but couldn’t quite get the cutback to Morelos. Arfield and Morelos tried to link up at the edge of the box a few minutes later and were unlucky not to create a great chance. Great pressing from Kent won a free kick on the 63rd minute, which was just too high for Worrall and nodded clear for a corner.

The Rangers pressure was growing. Tavernier found some space on the right in the 67th minute and played a great cross. Ejaria met it and looked certain to score, but goalkeeper Strebinger made a great save.

The game was being played in the Rapid Vienna half as Rangers dominated and looked to break them down. A couple of through balls from Arfield were blocked on the edge of the box. Morelos saw a shot blocked on 77 minutes. A minute later, the striker couldn’t find Kent at the end of a great counter-attack and had a shot saved on 80 minutes.

Rangers tried to create some chances out wide, but the Rapid defence stood firm. On 82 minutes, Coulibaly won the ball around 40 yards out and linked up with Kent. The ball was given to Ejaria, who slipped in Morelos. A late challenge brought down the Colombian, and a penalty was awarded. Tavernier kept his composure to score the spot-kick and make it 2-1.

Ibrox was unbelievable after that goal, with the fans on their feet and driving the team on. A couple of breaks were unlucky not to lead to good chances. The defence did get a little deeper but dealt with everything Rapid threw at them. With 3 minutes of injury time played, the nerves were eased as Rangers made it 3-1.

A deep free-kick was cleared by Worrall, and hit further by Candeias. The winger chased his own clearance and won the ball just inside the Rangers half. He was aware enough to play a lovely backheel which sent Morelos clear. With Halliday supporting, Morelos decided to go it alone and slotted the ball under the goalkeeper to make it 3-1. The game finished only seconds later and the Rangers players celebrated a great win.

ANALYSIS

Going behind in the fashion Rangers did, with a contentious goal, could have seen the team lose a bit of focus. Instead, they raised their level and deservedly won the match. The attacking play was constantly dangerous and required a lot of last-ditch defending by Rapid. Every player stood up to the physical challenge throughout. The manager called it right in terms of substitutions, not making any as the team were on top. Rapid looked to play for the draw in the second half and Rangers never let up as they pressed them into mistakes. It was that attitude which was every bit as important as the ability on display from Gerrard’s team.

RANGERS:

McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan; Arfield, Coulibaly, Ejaria; Candeias, Kent (Halliday, 90), Morelos.

SUBS: Foderingham, Katic, Barisic, Grezda, Middleton, Lafferty.

SK RAPID VIENNA:

Strebinger, Muldur, Barac (Dibon, 33) Sonnleitner, Schwab, Berisha (Bolingoli, 72), Murg, Potzmann, Pavlovic, Ljubicic, Ivan (Alar, 58)

SUBS: Knoflach, Martic, Auer, Knasmullner.