By Duncan Wright
After an lethargic and insipid 1st half performance Rangers delivered a much improved second half performance to earn a Premier Sports Cup semi final place. Facing last year’s finalists Livingston, Rangers struggled to impose themselves on the game in the first half, showing little creativity and no cutting edge. Livingston had shown no threat in the opening forty five minutes but Steven Gerrard would have been far from happy with his team’s first half performance.
The sloppiness in passing, laboured build up, and lack of urgency that has been evident in previous Rangers games this season was on show for large parts of the first half this evening. The front four of Aribo, Wright, Morelos and Roofe were virtually anonymous and indeed the two best chances of the first half fell to Rangers full backs. Nathan Patterson broke into the box after only 7 minutes and was unlucky to see his shot saved whilst Calvin Bassey should have probably scored just after 20 minutes. Bassey was found by a wonderful cross field pass from Goldson which then saw him cut inside the full back before blazing over his shot over the bar.
As the end of the first half approached Ianis Hagi was sent out for a vigorous warm up and it came as no surprise to see him replace Scott Wright at half time. Hagi’s impact was pretty much instantaneous as with only two minutes of the second half gone he found space for himself in the box, showed great control on receiving the pass in order to create space for the cross and then put the ball across the face of the goal at pace. Kemar Roofe showed his predatory instincts to react first and blast the ball into the roof of the net from six yards.
It was exactly the start to the second half Rangers needed and with the confidence of the goal Rangers attacked with intent, at pace and showed the creativity that had been so clearly missing from the first period of the game. They looked sharper, their passing was more incisive and they were creating chances. Roofe had a shot from the edge of the box well saved and Balogun put a header just past the post after a tantalising cross from Hagi.
It was therefore rather ironic that after all of Rangers good play the second goal came from a Livingston mistake. Stryjrek the Livingston goalkeeper looked to make a simple pass across his box but inexplicably passed the ball straight to Morelos. The Columbian striker worked the ball onto his right foot and punished Stryjrek with a feriocus shot into the top corner of the net.
The second goal killed the game as a contest and the remainder of the game was played out without further incident other than some more valuable game time for Bacuna and Sakala. There was no doubt that this was a comfortable victory for Rangers but there was evidence in the first half of a sloppiness, particularly with their passing and Gary MacAllister acknowledged this in the post match press conference, “…that’s something that still requires focus from our players. The only way we felt Livingston would get a chance would be from a misplaced pass from ourselves.”
MacAllister also commented on the news of Glen Kamara signing a new contract. “I’m a massive fan of Glen. I watch him play for his national team and he plays with poise and class. If he could step forward and add goals to his game that would be great. We believe he is a quality player who can still improve.”
There was improvement from Rangers tonight and the team will return to Hampden for another cup semi -final but it’s clear that the team is still not firing on all cylinders. The visit to Dens park on Saturday to play Dundee gives the team the opportunity to demonstrate they have found the consistency and confidence to win games comfortably.
McLaughlin, Bassey, Lundstram, Goldson, Patterson (Tavernier 62), Aribo (Arfield 76), Kamara, Morelos (Bacuna 70), Wright (Hagi 45), Roofe (Sakala), Balogun