Was it all Sadiq’s fault?

Was he that bad? Did Umar Sadiq’s inclusion in the Rangers team on Sunday really cost us the victory? Why didn’t he stay on his feet?! It was an awful result. We didn’t create enough chances. How much of it was down to the big Nigerian ploughing a lone furrow up front though?

There was always going to be a selection dilemma the moment Alfredo Morelos picked up a yellow card v Ayr United. With no strikers available and Umar Sadiq miles out of the picture, it seemed a change of shape was inevitable. But, Steven Gerrard surprised us all with the inclusion of Sadiq for the League Cup Semi-Final v Aberdeen.

When the team was announced, it didn’t seem like a gamble. Sadiq had obviously been given a very straightforward set of instructions. Keep it simple. Hold the ball up and bring others into play. Play on the last man and look to get in behind. Split the centre-halves to force long balls. I thought he did what was realistically expected of him, except for one obvious, glaring mistake.

The nature of the result and Sadiq’s decision to “look for contact” rather than stay on his feet and attempt to score has soured the judgement of his performance.

What did he do well?

What Sadiq did do well was control awkward passes that were played from distance at chest and head height. No striker wins every dual but Sadiq was more than holding his own, winning a few free kicks in the process. Some of Rangers best attacking moments came from Sadiq’s ability to win the first ball and bring others into play. 

The timing of his runs was a bit off, his highlight reel is full of him sitting on the last man and exploiting the space behind. Ironically, it was only good work from the assistant referee that prevented him from getting a couple of 1 v 1 chances with Joe Lewis. He was inches rather than yards offside, marginal, but correct calls. 

“That” moment.

His key moment, and one I fear he will always and only be remembered for defined the game. He had a split second to decide what to do. Sadiq feels the slight push from Devlin and sees Lewis rushing out. He gets to the ball first and expects Lewis to continue his momentum but he doesn’t. All about the inches, Lewis makes his decision a split second later and Rangers probably get the penalty. The key for me is that I don’t think Sadiq has the confidence that he is going to get a controlled touch. He was perfectly placed to roll the ball into an empty net but it looks like Sadiq is just trying to get a foot on the ball. In fairness, it is excellent goalkeeping from Lewis, a bit of a gamble, but it paid off.

Sadiq scores that chance and we reflect on his performance in an altogether different manner. What did we expect from a 21-year-old that hasn’t started a game, has hardly played and it is a semi-final? I hope to see him again in a game with less pressure or coming off the bench to give Morelos a rest from time to time. There was enough there on Sunday to suggest he could be capable. If you don’t believe me watch the game again, after all, it is Halloween, the stuff of nightmares!