Group G is now wide open. The 0-0 draw between Rangers and Spartak Moscow has ensured the group will have an interesting second half. It wasn’t the greatest game ever but in the end, Spartak came to Ibrox and went away with what they wanted. Rangers, on the other hand, may look back on this match as a missed opportunity when the group reaches its conclusion. What I will say is that Spartak looked a far more competent side than the Rapid Vienna side that came to Ibrox a few weeks ago; a step up in quality and class.
I will look at a few of the talking points from the game at Ibrox:
Rangers huffed and puffed with little quality in the final third
It was a typical European match. Spartak came for a point and offered little in attack and it was up to Rangers to force the game and try and break them down. First thing I would mention is I felt their captain and number 14, Georgi Dzhikiya, was my man of the match overall. I felt he used all the experience in the book and played Alfredo Morelos very well. Next to him, Salvatore Bocchetti played well also.
Eros Grezda and James Tavernier had standout chances and they should have taken them. However, I feel the pattern was similar to that of the Hamilton game on Sunday. We found it difficult to break down Spartak’s deep defensive line. On the whole, I thought they defended well. But for Rangers, that little bit of spark from middle to front proved to be costly. But having said that, when you can create chances like Grezda’s, you really have to take them at this level.
Three English players were the standout performers
For me, I felt the three English loanees were Rangers’ best players on the night. Joe Worrall, who came back in for Nikola Katic, didn’t put a foot wrong and was probably our best defender on the night. He was calm, composed and commanding in everything he did. That can only bode well for future matches and give him a boost in confidence.
Ovie Ejaria handled himself well in midfield and, like Worrall, was probably Rangers’ best midfielder on the night. He tried to drive the team on from deep but unfortunately, that side of the game never came off from him.
Finally Ryan Kent, again he put in an eye-catching display. His willingness to take on players caused them problems but like Ejaria, it never quite happened in the end. Nevertheless, watching someone who has the confidence to take on defenders and glide past players is a joy.
Scott Arfield is a massive miss
He’s the man who knits everything together in the transition from defence to attack. Whilst it was left to Ovie Ejaria and Coulibaly to take turns to try and fill in that role, it never really happened. I felt that Rangers were too slow on the break at times. Arfield’s awareness and timing of the passes to bring these counter-attacks together is invaluable to how this side want to play. On the night it was badly missed.