It was a great night at Ibrox as Rangers won their first group stage match in the Europa League. Furthermore, it means this squad have equalled the record set by the 92/93 team for going 10 matches undefeated in Europe. Given Rangers had to start in qualifying round one, that is some achievement. The 3-1 victory was richly deserved. Rapid took the lead from a Veton Berish effort. However, Rangers managed to come back via two goals from Alfredo Morelos and a James Tavernier penalty. The Light Blues now top group G with four points from two matches.
I am going to look at the talking points from the 90 minutes at Ibrox:
Set up in a 4-3-3 and the results will follow
The results speak for themselves. Livingston, Motherwell, Celtic. Games that Gerrard has moved away from 4-3-3 and Rangers have dropped points. However, it’s no surprise that when 4-3-3 is deployed the results come. Everyone looks like they know their role within the set-up and it gives the team a solid platform to attack from, and we look more solid and comfortable out of possession.
Hopefully, Steven Gerrard takes that on board and I am sure he will. He doesn’t seem the stubborn type and this result and performance against a decent Rapid side reinforced that the 4-3-3 is the way to go for this group of players.
Second half was total domination from Rangers; Rapid had no response
I think the first half Rangers were a little too safe in possession. The build-up play was fine, but the final pass was often lacking, apart from James Tavernier’s assist, of course. One aspect that pleased me from the first half was the pressing. When Rangers went and pressed the ball tentatively it forced Rapid into errors.
Second half, though, was excellent. We pressed at the right times; the tempo got raised at the right times and it was a very controlled performance, quite mature for such a young side. In my opinion, it was a game of attack versus defence; Rapid were happy to sit in. Their manager removed Andrei Ivan before the hour and the out-ball for Rapid was gone.
It allowed Rangers to push up and keep Rapid hemmed in, which allowed Ryan Kent, Ovie Ejaria, and the other attacking players to create some nice attacking movements. It also looked like Rapid couldn’t handle Rangers’ energy and fitness levels in the last quarter of the game, which is testament to the fitness team and the drive of the team to keep going.
Alfredo Morelos was outstanding
Yet again, on the European stage, he delivers. It would have been easy for the team’s head to go down and go into their shell after losing the first goal, but it was time for bravery. Alfredo Morelos stood up and was counted; the Colombian got his first chance of the night and was clinical. It was massive, especially just on half-time. He was involved in the penalty too, drawing the defender into the tackle, and taking the hit for the team. His selfless display which combined work rate, strength and that clinical finishing ended with him going one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Usually, those are the kind of chances that he hits the keeper in the chest with, but he showed wonderful composure to slide it home. Hopefully, he can take that forward into future games and be more composed and start to take more of the one-on-one chances. With 10 goals so far this season, he’s well on his way to beating last season’s total of 18. And this match proved how important he can be to the team when he is in the mood. Unplayable at times.
Deserved his standing ovation when replaced by Glenn Middleton.