There were more than a few candidates for man of the match for Rangers on Saturday. Wes Foderingham made some great saves in the first half. Daniel Candeias was excellent with his pressing and overall play. Ross McCrorie done really well in midfield to allow others to get forward. However, I’ve picked out two players who I think were most deserving over the course of the match.
The first of these is David Bates. He was given man of the match by the Sky pundits for his performance after coming off the bench on 18 minutes to replace Alves. Straight away, he got up to the speed of the match, covering through balls and clearing crosses. In many respects, the first half suited his style of defending, as Rangers were under pressure. His natural instincts in terms of positioning and winning headers came to the fore and meant that for all their possession, Celtic didn’t create many chances.
Bates showed another side to his game for large parts of the second half. As Rangers were dominant and the full backs getting forward, he was a little more isolated on the halfway line often. However, he read the game well, and used his strength to ensure Dembele got no joy at all from any long balls. Such was his dominance that the Celtic striker was substituted and had offered nothing to the game.
Even on the ball, where Bates seems weakest, he was more than capable during this game. In his last performance against Kilmarnock, he really seemed to struggle. This time around, he pretty much strolled it.
For me, though, man of the match award should go to James Tavernier. Throughout the game he was excellent on the ball, great at pressing and forcing mistakes, and he created some great chances for himself and others. Defensively, he was only caught out once or twice in the first half. Given the possession Celtic had, this showed he was very dependable in that regard. The second half was a performance where he looked like a player determined to win, and capable of single-handedly providing it.
His chance just a couple of minutes into the half had come through good pressing by him forcing a mistake. The cross from Candeias was a little behind him, but his technique for the volley was perfect. When you watch that chance again, you realise just how good the save from Gordon was. That seemed to spur on the Rangers right back. Time and again he was beating players going forward and finding space to run into.
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The moment of the match came from him, with his great run from deep beating two Celtic players and his inch-perfect cross being met by Morelos. The save from Gordon was one that you’ll look back on in time and wonder just how he kept it out. Tavernier was so dominant that Rodgers had to hook Sinclair to try someone else to occupy the right back. It made little difference to just how well Tavernier played.
This was a game Rangers got a result from through determination and desire. It wasn’t a draw won only by being strong defensively, because there were plenty of moments of good football and great chances. For me, Tavernier was the epitome of all of that, with his influence in the second half being huge.
Do you agree with my choice for man of the match? Tweet us @rangersnewsuk with your thoughts!