He started relatively slowly, but Ovie Ejaria is growing into the Rangers jersey week-on-week.
The on-loan Liverpool man fired home the crucial away goal at Ufa to send Rangers through to the group stages of the Europa League. The Gers were leading 1-0 thanks to the first-leg success at Ibrox. But Ejaria’s goal put them in cruise control.
The midfield star deserves enormous credit for the leading role he took on during a tough evening in Russia.
We questioned whether the midfielder should start at Parkhead on Sunday. However, with Lassana Coulibaly still injured, there’s no doubt that Ejaria should now be the man to step in.
He showed more than just a stunning strike, however. The youngster was the epitome of composure and didn’t lose his head when many of his team-mates looked to be.
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Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan were both sent off either side of half-time respectively. This left Ejaria with a power of work to do in the midfield which he tackled head on. Partnering Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield in the engine room, he’s starting to show a bit more of what he’s about.
Despite his slow start to life at Ibrox, Steven Gerrard has stuck past his man since signing him in the summer. It’s now being proved why as he starts to grow into his role in Govan nicely.
For Ejaria, tougher tests are still to come. But he looked a confident man after his first goal for the club against Motherwell on Sunday.
There’s still a tendency from the loan star to lose the ball carelessly at times, but he looked a lot more polished in Russia. Ball retention and decision-making was sharper from the summer signing, and that’s what Gerrard needs to see more of in the coming weeks.
The Rangers manager has some big decisions to make at Parkhead. Ejaria’s inclusion my not be one of them as he continues to grow into life at Ibrox. His performance in Russia has him in pole position to take part in the biggest game of his life.
Whether he can take it, however, is another matter.