It was heartache for Rangers B team last night despite a valiant comeback from 3-0 down, they eventually lost out on penalties. To get this part out of the way, the quality of penalty on show from Rangers was truly awful and a bitterly disappointing way for it to end.
Rangers were excellent in the second half and completely dominated the attacking play. It was wave after wave of Rangers pressure and they eventually got a deserved equaliser.
The quality of pressing on show from the B team was hugely impressive, as was their ability to play around their opponents press. These factors were key in them getting back into the game and probably exactly how Michael Beale wants the first team to play.
The midfield three were excellent and didn’t give any Celtic players a seconds peace. Just like the first team though, a lack of clinical finishing cost them the trophy last night.
Most of the players on the pitch impressed but let’s focus on five and how they impacted the game. These weren’t necessarily the five best players on the pitch but five who definitely made an impression. Let’s start with the biggest name;
Alex Lowry – A player who could be a generational talent at Rangers. So comfortable taking players on and the ball sticks to his feet. He needs to work on his decision making though. Last night wasn’t his best performance but he showed magic in glimpses and the fans will be keen to see more of that.
Sometimes he just needs to release the ball a second earlier and that’s probably the only thing keeping him from more first team minutes. It will be interesting to see if Michael Beale includes him in the first team squad the rest of the season.
Zak Lovelace – Fans were very critical, rightly so, of his performance in the U18 final last week. This week he looked like a different player. He harassed and hounded the Celtic defenders at every opportunity.
He carried the ball well and was a constant thorn in the Celtic defence. This is the player fans were expecting to see last week. This is was a player who deserves all the hype.
He took his goal well and was incredibly unlucky not to score what would have been a goal of the season contender. A lovely turn and a curling shot unfortunately struck the post but luckily Tony Weston turned it in.
Based on this performance he deserves a chance to show what he can do at first team level. It will be interesting to see if Michael Beale feels the same in the coming weeks.
Arron Lyall – In the midfield three he was excellent, not the best of them (we’ll come to that later) but he put in a terrific shift. Didn’t give the Celtic midfielders a moments rest he ran himself into the ground for the team.
He picked the right pass at the right time and carried the ball well when no options were available. He was tenacious in the tackle and it was the type of midfield performance fans love in an Old Firm tie.
He looks ready for some first team minutes and hopefully gets his chance to show what he can do.
Lewis McKinnon – Despite his mistake for one of the Celtic goals he was excellent tonight. Positionally sound and composed on the ball. Always looked to play it out and played multiple passes through the lines.
He was also strong and solid when dealing with any of Celtic’s forwards. A performance very reminiscent of John Souttar, if he can be that type of player he could be very useful to Rangers going forward.
Perhaps a bit further away from the first team than the rest and Leon King is probably still ahead of him in the pecking order. It seems unlikely he’ll get a first team chance this season but this performance done his chances no harm at all.
Seems another promising one for the future.
Bailey Rice – Saved the best for last. It’s genuinely mind blowing that he’s only 16. He plays with composure way beyond his years and never looks rushed when he’s on the ball.
Add to that the vision he possesses and there is the making of an excellent deep lying playmaker. He barely ever gives the ball away and is always tries to break the lines with his passes.
He played multiple quality through balls which cut through Celtic’s defence and on another night would’ve had a couple of assists. His delivery from set pieces was also excellent, he was the most exciting player on the pitch tonight.
There will be high expectations from fans after his game but the youngster has all the tools to make it to the very top. Having already made his first team debut, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets anymore minutes to end the season.
Despite the result, the second half performance was superb and the future looked bright. Who stood out to you from the game?