Despite the 1-0 loss to Celtic on Sunday, Rangers’ defending was much improved at Parkhead.
Olivier Ntcham condemned Rangers to defeat in the first Old Firm derby of the season, but there was one big positive for Steven Gerrard to take from the game.
Firstly, it’s a massive lesson learned for all concerned at Ibrox. The size of the task Gerrard has taken on at Rangers was in plain view as Celtic dominated the first half. Rangers came into the game more in the second 45, but the tone was set and the Gers were always second best.
Yet, despite being dominated in the middle of the park, Rangers’ defence once again stood up and passed the Parkhead test.
Biggest test yet
Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic once again showed terrific aerial abilities and composure to remain calm. This reflected in their defending throughout, as they dealt with Odsonne Edouard extremely well.
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Added to that, despite the fact Celtic had Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor playing, neither had many openings. This was down to the shackles that were put on Celtic’s flair players by the Gers back-line.
Granted, Rangers weren’t in any sort of control during the game. Celtic bossed possession for the most part and deserved their win. But it would be foolish to deny how impressive the defensive duo were once more.
This was always going to be the pair’s biggest test in a Rangers jersey. Despite qualifying for the Europa League, the cauldron of Celtic Park was always going to be hot.
Yet both Katic and Goldson came out of it with flying colours. Allan McGregor had to make some decent stops, but Celtic were largely restricted considering their possession.
That alone must give the new Rangers manager some real cause for optimism. Celtic bossed the game, yet still struggled to create clear chances in and around the box.
Borna Barisic also put in a terrific shift, making some timely challenges and managing to keep James Forrest quiet. He was Rangers’ main spark down the left, but his defensive display can’t be underplayed either.
The big concern will be that Rangers once again looked nervy at the back from set-pieces. This is where Celtic hit the crossbar on both occasions through Mikael Lustig and Forrest. The latter wasn’t directly from a cross, but it was from a failure to get out quick enough.
Outside of that, Rangers can be pleased with their defensive work.
It may have been a defeat, but the new Rangers defence passed a huge test at Celtic Park.