Rangers played Kilmarnock no less than seven times last season and couldn’t find a way to win at Rugby Park in league fixtures. On Sunday, they didn’t play well, on a pitch that isn’t fit for top-flight football and managed to come away with a 2-1 victory.
Rangers were in control for the majority of the game and didn’t allow Kilmarnock many clear-cut chances – only one from Eamon Brophy. But all three goals came from set-pieces. Scott Arfield scored in the 16th minute after Nikola Katić met James Tavernier’s corner and the Croat’s header was palmed out to Arfield’s feet just a few yards from goal.
However, it went wrong for Rangers when Stephen O’Donnell was left in acres of space following Chris Burke’s free-kick. In fairness, it was a superb finish from the right-back.
When Killie had thought they had gained a point, Rangers won a corner in the 91st minute. Tavernier stuck the ball right on Goldson’s head and he powered it home to give Rangers maximum points.
Steven Gerrard opted for a team that was expected. Again, he used the 4-3-2-1 shape. As for Killie, it was an expected side from them too. However, in the second period, they changed shape from 4-1-4-1 to 4-2-3-1 and pushed El Makrini behind Brophy.
Rangers low-block woes continued – Aribo was too deep
Rangers found it tough against Killie’s low block again this season. However, it seemed to be due to the position that Joe Aribo was asked to fill. As you can see from the image, Kilmarnock were very deep in the 12th minute and all of the space had been shut down. There is no way for Rangers to play between the lines. With Jack and Davis sitting, Aribo would have been better served taking up space in the 10 position and aiming to link up with Ojo, Morelos and Arfield.
The few times Aribo took up that position, they led to shots at goal. His second shot at goal ultimately led to the corner that won Rangers the game. Maybe it’s something for Steven Gerrard to think about going forward, especially against the low block.
The image above shows Aribo’s position as he receives the ball to take his shot at goal, which leads to the winning goal. He’s far more effective in the ‘red box’ areas and a shift in his position would help the team massively in games such as this.
They found a way to win
Corner kicks, who would have thought it? Too many times last season, Rangers would accept their fate and the result but hopefully, this is a turning point for Gerrard’s men as they chase the title. When the open-play attacking route wasn’t working for them, as they had 65% of the possession and 12 shots without creating many clear-cut chances, the corners and the delivery from James Tavernier was the weapon needed to turn one point into three.
James Tavernier drove the team on
Tavernier didn’t have a good 90 minutes at all. However, he was the one who drove the team forward after O’Donnell’s equaliser, taking on and beating three men. Then swinging the corner onto Goldson’s head. Many still doubt his captain attributes, but he proved again that when the chips are down he stands up and is counted.
Despite the winning start, the Rangers performance was turgid for long spells and it leaves a lot of questions to be answered going forward. However, winning ugly isn’t something Rangers managed to do last season, especially when they conceded late goals. It shows the team have a strong mentality but they have to build on it going forward or this result will mean very little.
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