Rangers Spartak Moscow Europa League Tactical Analysis

Rangers won a fairly comfortable match against Hearts 2-1 on Sunday. Goals from Cummings and Candeias saw off the Edinburgh side, and the scoreline was much closer than it should have been.

Rangers started the match with 4 changes to their starting eleven. Jak Alnwick replaced the injured Foderingham in goals. Josh Windass came back into the side for Halliday, with Holt replacing Docherty. Finally, Cummings replaced Morelos. The team was set up in the 4-2-3-1 shape which has been the subject of much debate recently. Hearts kept their 5-4-1 shape from the win against Aberdeen. Amankwaa started in the left midfield position, with the returning Adao on the bench.

FIRST HALF

Rangers showed a real intent to start the game at a high tempo. Josh Windass had a shot blocked in the first minute from a Candeias pass. On the 5th minute, Jamie Murphy played a wonderful reverse pass into the path of Tavernier, and his cross was glanced away from Cummings. The team were showing far more energy and desire, and Graham Dorrans got the crowd involved with a good slide tackle not long after this. What had been a frustrating and confusing week was seemingly not holding the players back.

On the 12th minute, Rangers fashioned a couple of good chances. Some nice play on the right opened up some space for Cummings to run into. His strike from distance was blocked by Berra and looped over the bar. From the resulting corner, Candeias found McCrorie making a near post run, but his volley went well over the bar.

The next chance of the match came just after 20 minutes. A ball into Cummings was chested down to Holt, who played it back to the striker. His pass inside found Windass on the run, and he strode forward at pace. Dragging the defenders towards him, Windass was able to find Murphy in space in the box. The first touch of the wide player wasn’t great, though, and McLaughlin was able to get out to save the left-footed effort.

Hearts had created nothing of note but were almost gifted a chance when McCrorie played a loose ball across the defence. Naismith picked it up, but McCrorie was able to recover and get the block in.

Two minutes later, the last real chance of the half fell to Russell Martin. A cross from the left by Dorrans was flicked on by the defender but went over the bar. From there, the rest of the first half followed a somewhat predictable pattern. Hearts were strong defensively and managing the game well, and Rangers were a little too direct in their play and attacks were breaking down.

SECOND HALF

It was clear straight away that Rangers were looking to find the high energy play required to break Hearts down. It took only 2 minutes for this to be rewarded as they opened the scoring. A long ball by Martin was cleared, but Windass was able to play a great pass to Murphy on the left. His run led to him cutting the ball back across goal, where Candeias picked it up. From around 12 yards, in a central area, the Portuguese winger could have hit a shot on the turn. Instead, he kept his composure to square the ball to Cummings, who finished the chance with a near-post shot.

Hearts tried to respond, with Godinho seeing an effort easily saved by Alnwick on 52 minutes. Rangers were clearly in a more confident mood, though. Two minutes after that, Jamie Murphy beat 4 players with a great run and saw his shot from close range blocked by Hughes. Rangers were threatening to create more good chances, with both Candeias and Cummings seeing crosses blocked in good positions. On 64 minutes, they were able to extend their lead.

Jason Holt sent Murphy clear on the left. The movement of Windass, Cummings and Candeias dragged the Hearts defence out of position, and Murphy played an excellent cross. It was met by Candeias with a diving header, which went in just under the bar. The winger then led the players to celebrate with the bench in a show of unity from the team.

Rangers didn’t let up in their attacking play. Candeias found Windass on the run and his low shot was well saved. However, it was Hearts who got the next goal through a set piece. Tavernier fouled Moore, and the free kick from Cowie was met by Berra for a rather simple header. The defending from Rangers was poor, with around 3 Hearts players lined up to score.

Two minutes later, Lafferty almost equalised. Moore did well on the left, and cut the ball back to the ex-Rangers striker. From the edge of the box, he looked to curl the ball into the far post but hit the outside of the upright.

Rangers looked to score a third, with Dorrans firing over from a Candeias cut back. Crosses were being well defended, but the game was still being played in the Hearts half. With only 6 minutes remaining of the 90, a loose ball by Berra was picked up by Cummings. Through one-on-one with the keeper, his finish was poor and the chance spurned.

The last chance of the match fell to Morelos, a late substitute for Cummings. A long ball was poorly dealt with by McLaughlin just outside the box. Holt won a challenge, and the ball fell to Morelos. He was forced wide, but cut inside and hit a right-foot shot which was cleared off the line by Smith.

ANALYSIS

Rangers were deserved winners in this match and should have scored more than twice. The approach by Hearts gave the team a chance to see a lot of the ball in advanced areas. It allowed for a confidence to try and attack more with no huge fear of being caught on the break. Given the way the week had went in the build-up to this, it was a good performance, especially in the second half. Hearts struggled to make much impact in the match, and the scoreline flattered them.

RANGERS:

Alnwick; Tavernier, Martin, McCrorie, John; Dorrans, Holt; Candeias (O’Halloran, 90), Windass, (Halliday 76), Murphy; Cummings (Morelos, 86).

SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Hodson, Goss, Docherty.

HEARTS:

McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Hughes (Henderson, 81), Berra, Amankwaa (Adao 55), Lafferty, Naismith, Cowie, Randall, Godinho (Moore, 60).

SUBS NOT USED: Hamilton, McDonald, Cochrane, Hamilton.