First-half goals from Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos meant Rangers were giving the large Ibrox crowd something to cheer at the break. Morelos added a penalty and a backheel to complete his hat-trick. To add gloss to the scoreline Jermain Defoe hit a brace to complete the route for Steven Gerrard‘s side.
With the outcome of the tie being a formality, Gerrard used this game to give some different players game time. For Instance, Greg Docherty and Matt Polster came into the side as well as Greg Stewart and Alfredo Morelos, who was on the bench in Gibraltar. There was also a change in goal with Wes Foderingham replacing Allan McGregor.
Rangers are beginning to take shape
The above image is from early on in the match and it is proof of how the Christmas tree system is giving the team far more attacking threats and allows Rangers to create overloads in central attacking areas. As you can see, Glen Kamara is playing a forward pass and he has five players in attacking areas. Morelos occupies three defenders, and that allows Joe Aribo and Greg Stewart, along with Jake Hastie on the left, to get in behind and break the lines. Furthermore, it doesn’t leave the central striker isolated at any time, which means the front three can be very fluid and interchange positions regularly.
Not only that but the full-backs are tasked with giving providing width – Halliday and Polster in this instance. However, one drawback of the system is the full-back can often be isolated. However, Aribo and Docherty on either side of the midfield three were more than happy to cover Halliday and Polster when they attacked down the flanks.
Docherty showing his worth
With competition in the midfield area fierce this season, Greg Docherty was given his opportunity to shine – and shine is exactly what he did. He was outstanding and showed he is comfortable in the box-to-box role. Not only was he a driving force going forward, but he also wasn’t shy in going back the way to help cover Matt Polster.
Also, he showed variety in his assists. For the first, he played a neat reverse pass into Aribo. Then, he played an inch-perfect cross for Morelos’ backheel. And he won the penalty for Morelos’ second. In fact, if it wasn’t for the red-hot finishing from the Colombian, Docherty would have been a strong candidate for man of the match.
Morelos proving he is the top man yet again
He came off the bench last week and found the net, and in this fixture, he showed again, that he has a fantastic array of finishing in his arsenal. For the first goal, it was sheer striker’s instinct and showed the hunger to beat the defender to head the ball home. The second, via the penalty, was incredibly his first penalty for the club. And the third was reminiscent of the goal against Hearts last season, with the cheeky backheel. He’s a boy who’s at the top of his form and he’s playing with real hunger and confidence.
Incredibly, his hat-trick took his Rangers goal tally to 52 goals. Gerrard can only hope he will be at Rangers past the close of the transfer window to add to that goal haul. However, overall, he proved he’s the best striker at the club. Each time he plays, he gets better and better.
While the tie was over, the second-half display from Rangers was encouraging. What was even more encouraging to see was the strength of the squad and how the players are adapting to their new teammates and are hungry to win every match. Of course, winning this tie sets up a rematch with Progrès Niederkorn of Luxembourg, who famously knocked Rangers out of this competition in the first qualifying round two years ago. There’s a chance for Gerrard’s Rangers to lay that particular ghost to rest.
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