Rangers: Ianis Hagi the Man of the Match in our hearts

After Rangers thrilling 2-1 win over Galatasaray in the Europa League, one player stood above the pack for us and he wasn’t even MOTM…

It’s pretty tough to talk about the game last night, even still, with any degree of nuance without throwing out endless platitudes like “amazing”, “incredible”, or that old overused classic “world class”. Rangers were expected to do quite well, despite perhaps not being favourites against Galatasaray in the Europa League, but they came away from Ibrox having made the latter seem decidedly second best.

The first half was a pensive affair. Rangers had all the ball, but neither side created much in the way of chances. Once the whistle for the second half echoed around the empty stadium, it all changed, perhaps the best 45 minutes of European football from the Light Blues in years was to follow. Gala simply didn’t know how to control us, the passing and movement and sheer domination was a thrill to watch and the scoreline, honestly, humbled the visitors.

Ally McCoist, and who am I to argue with the legend himself, picked skipper James Tavernier as Man of the Match. Couldn’t agree more with that, scored a belter of a header for our second, which would be the winner, and lead the line beautifully all evening. When Rangers attacked, he was up there. When Galatasaray attacked, admittedly this didn’t happen much but still, he was there too. An absolute colossus and no doubt the press are linking him to more thirsty Premier League clubs as we speak.

That said, deep down, I think I’d have picked Ianis Hagi for the honour. Not just because he’s Turkish, or his father is a Galatasaray legend, or that he assisted the first goal with a no-look pass that would make David Silva envious. All those are factors, surely, but beyond that I couldn’t help but feel we saw him at his absolute best last night – and he was head and shoulders above the rest.

Hagi joined the Gers permanently for £3 million over the summer, but his performances have always been the subject of debate. At worst he seemed a flop and at best, inconsistent. Steven Gerrard knew better, which was why the club moved so fast and snapped him up for keeps – last night’s performance hopefully has put the doubters to bed.

Hagi absolutely dominanted the middle of the park and was involved in everything creative that Rangers managed. His weighted passes, some of which were no lookers, were breath-taking and he managed to make 3 key passes leading to goal scoring opportunities, despite only playing 78 minutes, which was more than any other player on the park.

Even the Turkish media, who moved quickly to downplay Rangers performance and instead blame Galatasaray’s incompetence, couldn’t help but admire Hagi. Here’s a quote from one source brought by the Daily Record;

“Of course, Rangers’ pace was also challenging. The balls Hagi slid calmly behind the defence were expected to be dangerous, because there were three passing options every time.

But it was surprising that Galatasaray could not find a solution to this. It’s almost the only plan of the opposition, as well as dead balls.

Unable to prevent Rangers from being so effective in both halves of the match, and when Hagi finds those passes that split the entire defense and, eventually the assist in a very comfortable position, one cannot help but think about it.”

Scathing though it may be, as the Gers were almost certainly better than just one game plan, even the opposition cannot begrudge Hagi his moment. Tav may be the official Man of the Match, and well deserved too, but Hagi is the Man of the Match in our hearts and even in theirs.

Not just the Turkish pundits either, a good few on Twitter were saying the same thing, Hagi looked absolutely awesome last night. See? Back to platitudes again, but, perhaps, in this case it really is deserved. Amazing, incredible and maybe even also world class – Rangers have it all in the young 23 year old if he can only play like that all the time. Let’s hope it’s the start of something special.