Rangers Spartak Moscow Europa League Tactical Analysis

Rangers beat St Mirren 2-0 at Ibrox in a solid display. Despite going down to 10 men after 30 minutes, the team never really looked under any pressure and were dominant throughout. The red card for Ross McCrorie meant that once again it was impossible to truly judge the level Rangers are capable of in domestic matches. It was clear that the team are playing with confidence and determination, though.

Rangers made 3 changes from the Maribor match. Borna Barisic made his debut at left-back, Jamie Murphy came back into the side, and Ross McCrorie started in midfield. St Mirren played recent signing Brock-Madsen up front, hoping to use his physicality to create chances.

FIRST HALF

From the very first minute, it was clear that Rangers were going to have a lot of the ball. St Mirren sat in and allowed easy possession in deep areas. It was no surprise that the first real chance came from a ball over the top due to that. Connor Goldson picked out Morelos in the area, and he was able to bring the ball down and volley with his left foot. The ball went narrowly wide, with some in the stadium believing he had scored.

A few minutes later, Barisic played an excellent pass for Morelos. The St Mirren defenders were getting back to close the space, so the striker fed Ryan Kent on the run. The Liverpool loanee shot straight at goalkeeper Craig Samson, however. It was clear Rangers would need to be a little patient in this match with St Mirren being organised in defence. On 14 minutes, Rangers forced a mistake which led to the breakthrough.

Jack Baird took an extra touch in defence and was closed down by both Murphy and Morelos. Murphy won the ball and played a perfect pass through to the striker. Morelos didn’t catch the ball entirely cleanly but did enough to place it into the far bottom corner and put Rangers 1-0 up.

The goal didn’t change the approach from either side. St Mirren barely got a touch of the ball as Rangers probed to try and create openings. With 23 minutes on the clock, Rangers got their second goal of the match. Ryan Kent was fouled around 45 yards out, and Barisic went over to take the free kick. His ball in picked out Goldson perfectly, who headed the ball in from 12 yards for his first Rangers goal.

At 2-0 and playing so dominantly, it looked like it would be a long afternoon for St Mirren. On the 30th minute, the game changed. Barisic played a heavy ball to Murphy, who couldn’t control it. Suddenly, St Mirren were through, and a pass sent Brock-Madsen clear. His touch may have been a little heavy, but he was denied the chance to find out as Ross McCrorie fouled him just outside the box. The referee showed McCrorie the red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and it was the correct decision.

Despite being down to 10 men, it was Rangers who created the next good chance of the match. A corner from Ryan Kent was met by Goldson, and the ball hit the inside of the post and came out from the header. St Mirren’s best chance came from some¬†good play on the left by Danny Mullen, who cut inside and hit the bar with a curling effort.

Just as an extra minute of injury time was announced, Ejaria won the ball in midfield and it broke to Murphy. His pass sent Morelos through, but the St Mirren defenders were able to get back. Morelos shifted the ball to his left and struck it well from outside the box, but the keeper was able to make a simple save.

SECOND HALF

Neither side made any changes at half-time, and the game quickly fell into a similar pattern to the first half. Despite St Mirren seeing more of the ball in the first 10 minutes of the second period, they didn’t create anything of note. Rangers were still threatening when getting forward. Good work by Morelos, Murphy and Kent saw a good chance created, but Morelos lashed the shot well off target.

For a while, the match was rather quiet in terms of chances created. The extra effort Rangers were putting in to make up for being a man short started to tell, as they weren’t as sharp in possession. St Mirren never really put on the sort of pressure you’d expect from a team with the extra man. Goldson and Katic were dealing with any threat and reading the game well. In midfield, Coulibaly and Ejaria worked hard, and Morelos was excellent at holding the play up.

It was the Colombian striker who would get the next notable chance in the match. Driving in from the right, he could have tried to square the ball to Tavernier. Instead, he hit a low shot which was deflected and saved by the feet of the ‘keeper. Ejaria was next to threaten another goal, as he won the ball from McGinn in the penalty area. His left foot shot was just not wide enough to beat Samson.

St Mirren created two chances towards the end of the match. Both came from Cammy Smith. The first saw his shot blocked and loop over McGregor, but the ball went just wide. His second came from a nice touch just outside the area, and a volley which was dipping but went over the bar.

Rangers actually ended the match with 9 men. Coulibaly had a lovely moment of skill where he beat 4 players and went on the run. He checked out on the touchline and was crudely fouled by Stephen McGinn. The midfielder carried on for a few minutes but went off early to get treatment on the knock.

ANALYSIS

Yet again, a red card has made judging the level of performance somewhat difficult. Moments of the match which could be deemed poor were almost certainly down to the one-man deficit. The red card was, on reflection, a daft decision by McCrorie. It’s something he’ll learn from, hopefully. Until that moment, Rangers had been very comfortable, and fans were hoping to see the energy levels maintained and more goals scored. St Mirren never really pressured the Rangers team enough through a mixture of their approach and good defending by the Ibrox side. Even with the red card, it was a rather routine win for Gerrard’s team.

RANGERS:

McGregor; Flanagan, Goldson, Katic, Barisic (Tavernier, 62); McCrorie, Ejaria, Coulibaly; Kent (Halliday, 69), Murphy, Morelos (Umar, 78).

SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Candeias, Hodson, Middleton.

ST MIRREN:

Samson, P McGinn, Coulson, S McGinn, Magennis, Brock-Madsen (Flynn, 69), Smith, Baird, Mullen, Willock (McShane 75), Kpekawa.

SUBS NOT USED: Rogers, Heaton, Cooke, King, MacPherson.