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Routine victory provides early signs that Rangers have the Wright stuff



If there is any truth in the old adage that a side who churns out victories whilst not at their best is a sign of a championship winning side, then Rangers provided strong evidence on Saturday that they will be the team to beat this season.


On a day when supporters were allowed back into Ibrox for a competitive game for the first time since 12 March 2020, and the visit of Bayer Leverkusen, the hosts provided plenty of evidence that they will take some stopping, despite looking a bit sluggish for long periods of the game.


The moment of the match came with twelve minutes to go when Scott Wright curled a sublime effort with the outside of his right foot past Max Stryjek in the Livingstone goal, to all but secure the points.  The former Aberdeen player has impressed since his move to Ibrox in January, and much is expected of him this season from manager Steven Gerrard.


"Scott probably deserved to start the game but we have got four games in 10 days so I am going to need him to be ready”, said Gerrard after the game.


"He came on for Ianis Hagi, but we are hoping he is going to pull through and be okay, but Scott has taken his chance - I thought he came on, was direct, was quick, played a lot of penetrating passes and scored a wonderful goal and that is the part of the game we are on his case over as we want him to keep getting numbers in his game and be a killer in the box and he was today.”


Hagi had come off after a crunching and rather naughty tackle from Adam Lewis, but the Romanian didn’t leave proceedings without making a huge contribution in scoring the opening goal after only eight minutes.


The Romanian controlled a Tavernier free-kick superbly at the back post, as he shaped to shoot he took out what felt like the entire Livi defence before shooting high into the net from close range to give Rangers the early lead they and the 23,000 supporters had craved.


The return of supporters at Ibrox could not be understated, and the frustration of the last few months during lock down was audible in the roar which greeted Hagi’s opener. Everyone involved with the club is praying that this is just start start of a more normal matchday experience.


Prior to kick-off both sets of players took the knee in the continued fight against racism. On Friday afternoon, James Tavernier had written an open letter to supporters telling them that the players would "take the knee to stand against racism, nothing more, and nothing less.” That message appears to have gotten through with the overwhelming majority of the crowd applauding in support when both sets of players took the knee.  


There was also a minutes silence prior to kick off for former Rangers captain Ally Dawson, who died last week at the age of 63. Dawson made 315 appearances for the club, and captained the side for two of his six major honours. Dawson was the very epitome of a real Rangers man, joining the playing staff straight from school in 1975 at the tender age of 16 and staying with the club for twelve seasons. He was introduced to the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2011.


The side selected by Gerrard suggested he had one eye on the Champions League qualifier on Tuesday, but it also gave a hint to the strength and depth of the squad he has amassed since arriving three years ago. There were no places for Alan McGregor, Filip Helander, Borna Barisic or Scott Arfield – with only McGregor of that group making the bench. When you consider that Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos are still to come back into proceedings, you can see just how strong Rangers are at the moment.


Fashion Sakala was drafted in for his first competitive start, with John Lundstram having to console himself with a place on the bench as Rangers went with a midfield three of Davis, Kamara and Aribo. Davis, yet again, showed that he is ageing like a fine wine, with yet another man of the match performance. The Northern Irishman may be 36, but he shows no signs of dropping his performance levels just yet.


Calvin Bassey was also impressive on the day, covering for Barisic superbly in a back four of him, Tavernier, Goldson and Balogun.


For Sakala, however, this would prove to be a frustrating afternoon, with the Zambian unable to repeat his heroics of the previous week against Real Madrid. For large chunks of the game he struggled to get going, and was replaced by Kemar Roofe on 71 minutes.


It was Roofe’s introduction which re-energised Rangers, and within six minutes of his arrival they'd secured the three points with that superb Scott Wright goal. Wright instigated the move with a cross into the box. Kent collected on the penalty spot and shot, but his effort was deflected up in the air and nodded on by Tavernier to Wright, who executed it superbly.


Roofe added insult to injury in the dying minutes when he reacted quicker than anyone else in the six yard box and scored the third, which put a slightly flattering look on proceedings. But even if Rangers weren’t at their best here, they never really looked like conceding on the day, with Jon McLaughlin having what most of us would describe as an easy day at the office. 


For Gerrard and Rangers the focus now shifts to Tuesday night and Malmo. For Gerrard, the prospect of managing in the biggest European competition will be a huge incentive.   For Rangers, it will surely mark the full recovery of the club after a decade of turmoil.


RANGERS: McLaughlin, Tavernier (c), Bassey, Goldson, Balogun, Davis, Kamara, Aribo, Kent, Hagi, Fashion Jr.

SUBS: McGregor, Lundstram, Itten, Simpson, Patterson, Wright, Roofe.


LIVINGSTON: Stryjek, Lewis, Fitzwater, Obileye, McMillan, Holt, Sibbald, Pittman (c), Penrice, Forrest & Anderson.

SUBS: Barden, Devlin, Kelly, Montaño, Kabia, Reilly & Hamilton.


Referee: John Beaton

Attendance: 23,000

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12 hours ago, Frankie said:

A fine report, many thanks for that mate.


Apologies for not publishing but I'm on holiday for the next fortnight so not online as much as I'd like to be.  :)

You should have said - I'll try to get to more or these over that time. 

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