A frustrating night at Ibrox saw Rangers draw 0-0 with Spartak Moscow in the third match of the Europa League group stage. Rangers created some good chances but were unable to find the goal they craved. Despite recent problems, Spartak defended well and showed their experience at this level. With 5 points from 3 matches, Rangers are still top of their Europa League Group. They will consider this 2 points dropped though. This tactical analysis will break down how the match unfolded.
Rangers started with the expected changes from the weekend. Flanagan, Jack and Worrall were restored to the starting line-up. Spartak Moscow lined up in a 4-3-3 with Ze Luis up front.
Inside 30 seconds, Rangers showed early intent. Tavernier won a challenge strongly and the ball broke to Morelos in the channel. His run and pass found Candeias overlapping, and the cross was blocked for a corner. From that corner, Morelos couldn’t quite connect with the header.
It was clear very early on that Spartak were looking to deny Rangers space on the right-hand side. Tavernier would be closed down quickly, and they always seemed to have an extra player over there to prevent players linking up. It helped them settle from the quick Rangers start, and they won a corner on 7 minutes. Similarly to the Rangers corner earlier, the ball was a good one but glanced clear.
Rangers were pressing and trying to turn the Spartak defence, but final balls were often just too long. Morelos and Candeias, in particular, were frustrated as runs couldn’t be found. Spartak were also adept at winning free-kicks under pressure, which broke up the play.
In the 18th minute, Rangers won a free-kick on the left which Tavernier swung in. The Spartak defence was able to clear after a few attempts, with Goldson very close to connecting with a great ball in. Around 4 minutes later, Rangers created a great chance. Some good pressing by Candeias on the left gave Kent a chance to find Morelos. His ball inside played in Candeias, and the winger drove into the box. It looked like he could shoot, but from a slightly wide angle, he tried to find Coulibaly at the back post. Unfortunately, his left-foot ball was poor and went over the head of the Mali midfielder.
Rangers were dominant in terms of territory and possession, but Spartak were defending well. Crosses were cleared more often than not, with Spartak happy to concede space in wide areas. Tavernier was struggling to find the mark with his corners. It took until the 43rd minute for another shot on goal, which came from Kent from distance and was straight at Maksimenko.
The half ended with Rangers seeing a couple of corners cleared and a booking for Morelos after a push in the area. Rangers were clearly the better side but Spartak had defended well.
Spartak made two substitutions at half time as they looked to be more expansive in the second half. For the first 5 minutes of the half, Rangers looked like they were continuing in the same fashion as the first. Morelos got a shot away on 49 minutes from the angle of the box, but it was easily saved.
Spartak got a period of pressure after 52 minutes as Rangers struggled to clear the ball. Fernando hit a shot which was deflected wide from just inside the area. Zobnin found space in the box in the 56th minute but the cutback was just behind him and he couldn’t turn the ball towards goal.
Rangers got back on the ball and created some good chances on the 61st minute. A Candeias cross was punched clear by Maksimenko, with a Morelos shot on the follow-up blocked. From the same passage of play, a Flanagan cross was punched clear by the goalkeeper just as it looked like Tavernier would turn it into the net.
On 66 minutes, Morelos did well on the right and flashed a ball across goal. Neither Coulibaly nor Kent could get on the end of it. Grezda replaced Jack just after this spurned chance as Rangers looked to chase the opening goal. A few minutes later, Hanni had a shot for Spartak which McGregor punched clear.
The game was opening up, as Tavernier found Morelos with a cutback on 70 minutes. His left-foot shot was weak but almost fell to Grezda who was just beaten to it by Maksimenko. An Ignatov shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Goldson on 74 minutes. A minute later, Spartak created a great chance with good play on the right which ended with Rasskazov hitting a shot wide.
Two minutes later, Rangers spurned a clear chance. Kent beat two defenders with some lovely play and cut the ball back for Grezda. The ball was slightly behind the Albanian, but he got a touch and was caught by the defender. With the claims for the penalty coming from many, the ball fell to Tavernier just inside the box. His shot was wild and went over the bar.
The game became quite attritional, with neither side creating any chances until the very last kick of the ball. Middleton, who had replaced Candeias, found Kent in space in the box. He took a touch and cut it back for Grezda, but the shot was hit over the bar to the disappointment of the fans. The final whistle sounded with Spartak the happier of the two sides.
Rangers will play games this season where they aren’t as good as they showed here and win. In fact, that was the case in the previous match against Hamilton. There were plenty of positives, and they were rarely troubled at the back. The overriding feeling on the night was one of frustration, though. Spartak were happy to play for the draw, and Rangers missed some good opportunities. The final ball wasn’t quite there on the night. All teams in the group have dropped points at home now, so it’s hard to call how the rest of the games will go. Gerrard can be happy with the improvement in his team in terms of performance from the weekend, but will feel there’s more to come from them.
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Flanagan; Jack (Grezda, 67), Coulibaly, Ejaria; Kent, Candeias (Middleton, 86), Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Halliday, McCrorie, Katic, Lafferty.
Maksimenko, Ze Luis, Fernando, Dzhikiya, Bocchetti, Ignatov (Popov, 84), Melgarejo, Lomovitski (Eremenko, 45), Zobnin, Tashaev (Hanni, 45), Rasskazov.
SUBS NOT USED: Rebrov, Petkovic, Kutepov, Timofeev.