Rangers are through the the quarter-final of the League Cup after a comprehensive win over Falkirk on a bitterly cold night at the Falkirk Stadium.
There were seven changes for Steven Gerrard’s side from the draw with Benfica on Thursday night as Allan McGregor, Leon Balogun, Steven Davis, Glen Kamara, Ryan Kent, Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos all made way with Jon McLaughlin, Calvin Bassey, Ianis Hagi, Bongani Zungu, Cedric Itten, Brandon Barker and Jermain Defoe coming into the side.
The Gers were immediately on the front foot as they looked to get an early goal, with Cedric Itten hitting his cross off the bar seconds after kick-off to give the hosts an early scare.
It didn’t take long for the opening goal to come with Rangers already looking like taking control of the game as Goldson’s diagonal ball over the top sent Defoe in behinf the Bairns’ defence and the veteran showed fantastic composure to volley the ball low into the far corner.
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Defoe came close to grabbing a second ten minutes later but couldn’t quite get his effort on target. Bassey’s long ball forward was nodded down for the veteran striker but he sent his shot just wide of PJ Morrison’s right-hand post.
There was a bit of concern for the Rangers bench when Brandon Barker went down and needed some treatment and the former Man City kid looked like he was ok to continue before again taking a seat on the sidelines.
That forced the first change of the game for Gerrard’s side as Glen Kamara replaced the winger, pushing Scott Arfield into a more advanced role in midfield.
Morrison was forced into action on 30 minutes, pulling off a strong save from Tavernier at the cost of a corner and Rangers’ showed their skill at set-pieces when Bassey fired the ball home when Morrison could only palm Itten’s header out into the six-yard box.
The hosts had their best chance of the opening half shortly afterwards, Mark Durnan getting on the end of Blair Alston’s cross but McLaughlin showed excellent reactions to deal with it.
Rangers won a dangerous free-kick just outside the box, five minutes before the break after Itten was impeded, and Barisic stepped up to curl the ball into the top corner and kill off the game.
Despite being in a commanding position, Gerrard opted against making changes at the break, and the Gers had a very lucky break right from the start. Sammon nicked in to steal a poor pass-back but McLuaghlin was sharp to react and smother the ball.
Rangers made it 4-0 just moments later, Barisic picking out Tavernier with a sublime cross and the skipper rifled a volley in at the back post with Morrison helpless.
Despite being 4-0 up it wouldn’t be unfair to say the Gers hadn’t got out of first gear and the Gers boss moved to use his subs, bringing on Glenn Middleton and Ciaran Dickson for Barisic and Arfield.
Middleton’s first involvement saw him emptied on the touchline for a free-kick as he looked to make an impression – and the Scotland U21 star wasn’t slow in doing that.
Dickson also came close to an immediate impact, firing just wide of the target after bursting forward fom midfield with Falkirk starting to tire.
Rangers took their foot off the gas a bit with the game beyond doubt, but Gerrard will have been pleased with the way most of his side continued to do the right things out of possession and limit the Bairns’ to a few shots from distance.
Gerrard handed another debut to a Gers Academy prospect with Leon King coming on alongside Greg Stewart as Zungu and Tavernier came off.
The game had lost any intesity it had in the opening 45 and the Gers were more than comfortable seeing the game out and moving their attention on to Thursday’s Europa League clash with Standard Liege.
Falkirk: P.J. Morrison, Dixon, Hall, Durnan, Todd, Alston, Gomis, Sammon, Telfer, Kelly, C. Morrison.
Subs: Cantley, Mercer, Dowds, Connolly, Francis, Leitch, Deveney, Laverty, Miller
Rangers: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Zungu, Arfield, Hagi, Barker, Itten, Defoe
Subs: Firth, Balogun, Kamara, Stewart, Middleton, Dickson, King, Kent, Morelos