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Rangers’ Ryan Kent celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game with his team-mates during the Scottish Premiership match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 12, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo cr
THIS was a win that came at a cost for Rangers. The three points earned are the most important thing to take away from a historic afternoon, but four injuries certainly spoiled the occasion for Steven Gerrard.
A seventh successive clean sheet at the start of the campaign saw Rangers rewrite the record books and maintain their unbeaten run. Time will tell how much of an impact this victory over Dundee United has on the title race, though, as Gerrard adds Leon Balogun, Ryan Jack, Brandon Barker and Alfredo Morelos to an injury list that already includes key men in Allan McGregor and Joe Aribo.
Given the run of fixtures – both at home and abroad – that Rangers have over the next few weeks, the loss of such influential performers could not have come at a worse time. The squad that Gerrard has at his disposal is the best of his Ibrox tenure and it will now have to be put to good use after a costly 90 minutes.
The victory was once again straightforward as Ryan Kent and James Tavernier netted in the first half and Kemar Roofe and Scott Arfield scored in the second. Micky Mellon had challenged United to break Rangers’ clean sheet record and have a go at Ibrox but an Ian Harkes strike that hit the bar was as close as they would come in a decent display.
“We know, coming away from here, what we need to work on and where we need to improve to get better, » Mellon said.
“We had a chat at the end of the game and next week we’ll try to improve as a Championship team who have come to this level against a top Rangers side.
“We were determined to come here and have a go because that’s the type of Dundee United team I want to be the manager of.
“I don’t want to sit on our own 18 yard box and hope for the best. We wanted to give it a go but we know what we need to improve on.
“There were periods of the game we did OK in. I’ll look over it but the most disappointing thing was losing four goals. »
A ball hadn’t been kicked before Gerrard had to change his side. Balogun was the first that had to be replaced, with the defender only able to feature in the warm-up as Filip Helander stepped up from the bench.
It was from there that Glen Kamara and then Morelos entered the action. A calf injury saw Jack hobble off after 11 minutes and Barker would follow him up the tunnel eight minutes later with a hamstring strain as Gerrard suffered a quickfire double blow.
By that time, Rangers were already in front. It was a moment of magic from Kent as he interchanged possession with Ianis Hagi and then bamboozled Ryan Edwards with quick footwork and shifts of his body.
The finish was low and powerful and this strike – his fourth of the campaign – was another indication, not that many are needed these days, of just how important Kent is to Rangers.
The first goal in games like this is so important for Rangers and United’s resistance was broken. Kamara headed just wide and Hagi came close from range as Gerrard’s side pushed for the second that would all-but secure the win.
It came from one of Gerrard’s most reliable performers. The Ibrox boss had been full of praise for Tavernier in the build-up to this fixture and the skipper would mark his 250th appearance with a goal as he got in ahead of Jamie Robson and converted a cross from Borna Barisic.
There was little chance of United coming back into it in the second half and the game should have been well beyond them shortly after the break. Chances were carelessly passed up by Rangers but the greatest concern came when Morelos was added to the crocked list.
A nasty, reckless challenge from Edwards inexplicably went unpunished by referee Kevin Clancy as he caught Morelos on the follow through.
The striker was stretchered off with a significant wound by Gerrard believes he will have an outside chance of featuring against Lincoln Red Imps on Thursday. Arfield was the replacement this time, while Calvin Bassey took over from Borna Barisic as Rangers continued to dominate.
“I was impressed with United today and the way they never gave up, » Gerrard said. “That could have been a much heavier scoreline as we showed a lot of quality. But I don’t want to make headlines and say a kid should have got this or that. I don’t want to be that type of manager.
“What I would say is that I’d be very interested to see what the decision would have been from the officials had the shoe been on the other foot and it was Alfredo who had made that tackle.”
The third goal did eventually come. A direct run from Arfield opened up the United defence and Roofe was on hand to stab home from six yards to net his second goal for Rangers as appeals for offside proven in vain for the visitors.
With a couple of minutes left, Rangers added a deserved shine to the scoreline. The move was fluent as Hagi was released down the right and Arfield’s finish was clinical as he swept the ball into the net.
The four goals were the positives for Gerrard. The four injuries will determine just how significant a game this proves to be.
« To be fair to Dundee today, they are the first side that has come to Ibrox this season and had a right go, » Gerrard said. « That helped us because when we won the ball back they were open and we could create problems.
« We can’t have it both ways,. we can’t be aggressive and on the front foot and be an entertaining team and not give anything away.
« We did give them a few moments, they hit the crossbar and Jon had to make a save but we have managed to break a record so the players desreve praise rather than criticism. »
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