Steven Gerrard’s Rangers – First Impressions

New Rangers manager Steven Gerrard watched on as his new side took to the field in their first competitive match under his guardianship.

It might have been against unknown opponents Macedonian outfit FC Shkupi in the Europa League’s opening qualifying round but the home crowd were out in force to see what Gerrard and his new team could produce.

The early signs were good as The Gers looked comfortable at the back, pressed high up and always looked to get the ball out wide and then into the penalty area.

In fairness to the Macedonian’s they didn’t wilt under the early pressure or the heavy noise coming from the Govan terraces. They slowed the game down, stayed patient and then created the first real chance when Gers captain James Tavernier was caught out of position and a Shkupi attacker hit the bar from a shot on the left.

Rangers then took the lead in the twenty first minute as new permanent signing Jamie Murphy managed to slam the ball home from the lefthand side. The Glasgow giants deserved the goal advantage as they were the hungrier team and were the side on the ascendancy.

You could tell early on that Scott Arfield is a thinker in midfield. He seems to be constantly on the move, looking to get in between the lines and when on the ball he looks to set up efficient attacks.

The Gers goal clearly unsettled their opponents and they struggled to regain their composure as Rangers started to find more passes and create more chances.

As the first-half came to a close, Rangers failed to capitalised on some very good opportunities and it was just 1-0 to the home side as the two teams went into the changing room areas.

Steven Gerrard would’ve been happy with the intent and the work-rate that his players showed in the first forty-five minutes. They rarely looked threatened at the back but complacent moments from Tavernier and new boy Nikola Katic would’ve been a sight concern for the new Gers coaching team.

Ross McCrorie looked more comfortable in the defensive midfield role but you get the feeling that one of Jordan Rossiter, Ryan Jack or Lassana Coulibaly will get that role on a more regular basis.

A rogue sprinkler only delayed the inevitable by a few minutes as Rangers came out and attacked right from the off in the second half. But much like in the opening period, FC Shkupi started to get on the ball more and add some pressure to the Gers backline.

For the opening fifteen minutes of the second half, Rangers looked out of sorts and were playing things at a more pedestrian pace. You could tell it was their first competitive outing of the campaign. They weren’t using the wide areas (as they did in the first half) or getting the ball in forward areas quickly enough.

When they finally started using their width again it almost made an instant impact as a Tavernier cross was headed over by Josh Windass, who then missed another chance shortly after as he could get enough on the ball to direct a drag back towards the opponent’s goal.

Connor Goldson looks to be a calming influence at centre-half. He wasn’t flustered at the back and dealt with any issues that came his way with minimal fuss. The twenty-five year old former Brighton man was also a threat from set-pieces with his aerial ability.

Substitute Liverpool loanee Ovie Ejaria should’ve had a penalty but the German referee decided that there wasn’t enough contact as the midfielder seemed to be fouled inside the penalty box.

Youngster Glenn Middleton then came on and his direct running managed to get the cheers from the Ibrox faithful.

Murphy managed to win a penalty in injury time for a challenge that looked weaker than the one Ejaria was ¬†ignored for. New club captain James Tavernier didn’t hesitate from the spot and hammered it home giving the Scottish Premiership side a two goal lead for next week.

All in all, it’s hard to really judge this new Gers team of Gerrard’s. They did the basics well and the manager will also be pleased with the cleansheet, especially with a new keeper and defence starting the game.

With so many new faces and so little game time prior to this match, it’s clear that the squad still needs time ¬†to gel.

They’ll be disappointed that they couldn’t score more as they created enough chances to put the tie to bed. As it stands a two goal advantage can still be a nervy one to take to Macedonia, especially if Shkupi score early in the second leg.

The Rangers side simply weren’t ruthless enough, lacked a cutting edge and didn’t seem to have enough creative imagination.

Steven Gerrard will be hoping that the goals will come as the team starts to find it’s feet.

Getting the victory and keeping a cleansheet was the target for the new Gers gaffer and he was able to send the support home happy with this 2-0 victory.

More in-depth judging of this team will come in the future as the tougher games arrive.

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