Rangers v. Dundee – Entirely as Expected

MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 26: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers celebrates after he scores his second goal during the Scottish Premier League match between Motherwell and Rangers at Fir Park on August 19, 2018 in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 26: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers celebrates after he scores his second goal during the Scottish Premier League match between Motherwell and Rangers at Fir Park on August 19, 2018 in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) /

Coming back from the loss to Celtic due to disorganization on the field early this month it was a relief to see Rangers working as a cohesive unit, not only that but the areas of play that were visibly lacking in the Old Firm flop were on prominent display here against Dundee. Without going into an in-depth analysis of the game and stats, the midfield fight we didn’t have against Celtic was completely reversed to an almost 65% domination of the ball (okay, maybe one stat for perspective) that likely left McGregor with time to consider what to make for dinner as the attempts by Dundee to mount some sort of offense through a tenacious Halliday kept being intercepted or outright shutdown. When Dundee did break through after a great pass to Elton Ngwatala pitting him mano a mano against McGregor in what would be their best opportunity of the match to get on the board, the Frenchman’s momentary hesitation to hold the ball rather than take the shot was enough that cool-headed McGregor correctly read it for a successful block with Rangers quickly collapsing to support. As with previous attempts the threat was cleared and a light blue jersey crusade marched to set up camp and lay siege on the Dundee defenses.

Despite what would become a 4-0 shutout, to Dundee’s credit they played an enjoyable game of football, seemingly forgetting they were yet to win a game and going in today this likely wouldn’t break that streak, and actually put forth commendable aggression – albeit perhaps a little too physical – rather than take the road of a defensive turtle withdrawing into its shell. This might have been a mind game to potentially get Rangers to react in kind but it would ultimately cost Dundee in the final moments of the game when Kenny Miller was given a questionably harsh red card however by that time Dundee likely just wanted to be put out of their misery. Additionally, judging from Goldson’s cartoonish attempt to put a 5th point on the board past Elliot Parish any way he could, Rangers were content running out the clock with some antics.

Along the vein of serious play, I was personally expecting to see a lot of pressure from Morelos this match but instead we saw a very early four minute goal from Coulibaly – although it could be argued this was a bit of a snipe out from under Morelos who was already positioned for the shot. Four minutes later it looked like he might get a second chance for a victory slide across the field but perhaps in his eagerness he put on too much throttle and despite the ball sailing into the net another goal was (entirely reasonably) robbed as he was caught in an offside position. His facial expression made it clear he was at a loss for words and rather upset but it wouldn’t be the only time he was called for offsides. The combination of this might have gotten to him because for the rest of the bout Morelos took a more backseat position in terms of making plays or being a real contributing presence, however in a roundabout way I suppose he could later be awarded a participation sticker for getting Taverneir a free kick which lead to the 3-0 lead. The substitution was likely a wise choice as the Columbian looked to be floundering and making poor choices and, rather than risk Morelos getting a red card to match his previously received yellow of the game, Gerrard found an opportunity to put Eros Grezda on the field. In a post-game talk with RangersTV Gerrard indicated this was less of a strategy for getting goals or making plays and more aimed at getting Grezda the chance to put some time on his legs after the June ankle surgery.

"“There are still two or three weeks to try and get into his legs before he is ready, but I still think you can see a little bit of quality, a little bit of sharpness, and I want an exciting team here full of pace and speed. He’ll certainly add to that.”"

Thankfully other Rangers stepped up when Morelos couldn’t. The aforementioned Coulibaly, who additionally attempted a flashy but smoothly executed overhead kick that came close but landed atop the net, and Kent for his first Gers goal and then throughout for being in the right place at the right time to make passes and apply pressure to the defense before being subbed out to preserve his energy for Thursday, as well as Candeias who had a strong presence on the field to keep Dundee on their back foot. In the final minutes Middleton showed beautiful positioning and initiative in responding to a cross from Candeias (who also had a strong presence on field) that had been poorly stopped by Genseric Kusunga which Middleton sank for Ranger’s 4th – and his first – goal right through Kusunga’s subsequent attempt to clear and past Parish.

This was the effort we needed to see from Rangers after falling flat against rival Celtic and gives us a glimpse of what the season – as well as Europa League – could hold for the club.