Things we learned — Kilmarnock 0-1 Rangers

By Jamie Currie
 November 4, 2020

Rangers came through a potentially sticky fixture at Rugby Park and beat Kilmarnock 1-0 through a James Tavernier first-half penalty. The Light Blues extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to nine points and recorded their 11th win in 13th league matches continuing their good early-season form.

There were plenty of talking points and things we learned about this Rangers side as they dug deep to earn the victory.

Rangers' game management was very good – in particular the Leon Balogun substitution

If you cannot get the second goal, you make sure you keep the back door shut, especially if there is only one goal in the game. That's exactly what Steven Gerrard and Michael Beale did when they replaced Alfredo Morelos with Leon Balogan and went with a back five with 86 minutes on the clock.

It came when Kilmarnock were lumping balls into the Rangers box and trying to force an equaliser in the process. They also shoved Kirk Broadfoot up front alongside Brophy in an attempt to grab the equaliser, which the aforementioned change completely nullified. Despite their four shots on target, Kilmarnock could not breach the Rangers defence, and their period of pressure was seen out when Cedric Itten and Scott Arfield were taking it in turns to take the ball to the corner and getting Rangers further up the pitch in order to make sure Rangers kept their 11th clean sheet in 13 league matches and take the three points back to Ibrox.

The strength and depth of the squad came to the fore

It's a sign of how strong this Rangers squad is when they can go to Kilmarnock, which has been a tough venue for them to visit in recent years, without being at full strength and come away with a vital win. In recent years, it's fair to suggest that Rangers have been too quick to get involved in the physical battle instead of playing their own game. This time, it was different. They had 57% possession to Killie's 43%; they had 20 shots on goal, and 15 from inside the box and four on target, while Killie had eight shots, four on target and just three inside the box.

There were five changes from Thursday's win against Lech Poznan: Helander came in for Balogun, Itten came in for Hagi, Davis went out and Jack came in and Kamara went out and he was replaced by Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe went out and was replaced by Morelos. Yet the overall quality on the pitch didn't take a nosedive.

Those stats tell the story of the match. When Rangers forget about the pitch and do not get bogged down into a scrap, they are the better team. It's all about them controlling the match with and without the ball and at Rugby Park they did this side of the match very well.

When the front three click, Rangers will hand out a few batterings

Rangers are getting there, but the three at the top end of the park are not at the top of their form just yet, and that can only be a positive sign for Steven Gerrard; when they do click and reach their fluid best, I would suggest someone in this division may end up being on the end of a sore one.

The work-rate of Kent, Morelos and Itten was superb and utterly selfless during the 90 minutes. Kent and Itten passed up big chances, while Morelos saw one of his second-half efforts saved by Danny Rogers.

The decision to play Itten from the right in a front three ended up being a good one. The Swiss striker held the ball up well, linked well with Tavernier and gave Findlay and Broadfoot something different to think about instead of them having to solely focus on Morelos when the ball came in from the wide areas, and it created space for others to try and penetrate their usually stingy backline. Overall, it was a positive result and a positive performance with Benfica and Hamilton on the horizon before the international break. The key now for Gerrard and his players is to keep the momentum going.

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