By Mark Dingwall
In the press box I said to Robert McElroy that the squad looked the strongest Steven Gerrard could put out. Well, yes, said Bob apart from the fact there was no Morelos, Katic, Barasic, Aribo, Kent, Jack or Sakala.
Despite the low numbers – 2,000 – the fans made a racket – especially when Kieran Tierney got the ball was was reminded there was no Ten In A Row.
The game started slowly until Aubameyang stole the ball from a McGregor pass out – but his shot was wide.
In 14 minutes Tavernier put in a corner and Balogun scored from the header.
Tavares was a constant threat – he stole the ball off of Tavernier and cut inside for a well-placed shot past McGregor to even the score.
Fifteen minutes before the break Jerome Defoe pulled up with a seeming twist on his left ankle and went off.
By the end of the match only McGregor would remain on the pitch from the original 22 players but oddly this didn’t destroy the rhythm of the game as such mass substitutions tend to.
Hagi nearly scored on the hour mark – he went off on a lopping run, interchanged with Bassey and fired in a shot that went over.
Cedric Itten scored in the 75th minute – generally against the balance of play – with a header from a Middleton corner.
Two minutes he nearly added to his total when he attacked down the left. He was outpaced by the defender and the move ended in an ineffective pass.
With eight minutes left Middleton was caught dawdling on the ball which was then stolen and converted by Nketiah.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier (Middleton, 61) Bassey (Edmundson, 61), Lundstram (Hastie, 61), Goldson (Kelly, 61), Defoe (Wright, 37), Davis (Arfield, 61), Kamara (Patterson, 45), Roofe (Itten, 61), Balogun (Simpson, 45)
SUBS NOT USED: McLaughlin, Mayo.
ARSENAL: Okonwo, Soares, Holding, Mari, Tavares, Partey, Elneny, F Balogun, Smith-Rowe, Pepe, Aubameyang.
SUBS: Hein, Smith, Chambers, Bellerin, Tierney, Kolasinac, Nelson, Nketiah, Lacazette, Willock, Willian, Maitland-Niles.
REFEREE: Bobby Madden