Going into this match, two players departed Ibrox – Josh Windass to Wigan and Declan John to Swansea. There were also bids knocked back for James Tavernier from West Brom. However, that didn’t have a negative impact on Rangers on a fantastic night at Ibrox against the Slovenian side Maribor. The team put all those potential distractions behind them and came out of the game with a richly-deserved 3-1 victory.
There were a few things that stuck out during the game which I would like to take a look at:
Second half display much better than the first
It would be churlish to start with a negative, especially after a result like that, but I felt there was a marked difference between the Rangers performances in each half. First half, it was pretty even and Rangers’ pressing was a bit iffy. Many times Maribor got through the midfield far too easily; the Rangers midfield was far too open at times, Ovie Ejaria and Scott Arfield often left Lassana Coulibaly exposed; 1-1 at the break was probably a fair reflection on the game.
The second half was absolutely excellent and Rangers were well worth the two-goal lead in the end. The midfield was much more compact and as a result, it gave Rangers much more scope to go and take control of the game. Furthermore, the pressing had Maribor panicking and they were pressing more as a unit, which is more of what we want to see.
Alfredo Morelos was my man of the match
It was one of those nights for the little Colombian. Right from the first whistle, he was absolutely outstanding. He seems to have found a second wind since the Shkupi matches and Suler had a horrible night trying to cope with his strength and movement. He got the first goal via a tap-in, won the penalty for the second goal and his hold-up play won the free-kick, which ultimately led to the third. You cannot ask from much more from him. It’s performances like this is why so many fans rate him. It was a joy to witness his display. He seemed to be enjoying it, that’s for sure.
We’ve been crying out for a player like Lassana Coulibaly for years
Lassana Coulibaly. Wow. Too often we have seen Rangers midfields get bullied week in, week out. However, in the shape of the Mali international, we have a player that will make sure that does not happen. He was playing the deepest in a midfield three and he stuck out like a sore thumb, especially in the second half. The way he covered the ground and was aggressive in the tackle was fantastic to see. Let’s not forget he was up against two very good and physical midfielders in the Maribor midfield, but he matched their industry and outshone them with his display. He was rewarded with his goal, getting on the end of Jamie Murphy’s cross. That third goal could be absolutely vital when the final whistle sounds in Maribor next Thursday night. He’s certainly winning the fans over so early in his Rangers career.