If the old adage that seven days is a long time in football needed further evidence of its validity, then Rangers’ defeat at Tannadice provided a timely reminder that just when you think you’re on solid ground is usually the moment the floor disappears from underneath your feet.
It was only last weekend after Rangers had secured a routine victory over Livingstone, whist Celtic dropped points in dramatic fashion at Tynecastle against Hearts, that the talk was that Celtic were a club in crisis and that Rangers’ road to two successive titles was going to be fairly routine affair. Now Gerrard and Rangers are facing questions about their title credentials after a European defeat to Malmo and defeat here to an average Dundee Utd side.
Make no mistake, this was a bad and potentially costly defeat for Rangers.
Gerrard arrived in the City of Discovery with added numbers in the squad from the one which was at his disposal in Sweden on Tuesday night. Back came Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe – who were both suspended against Malmo – and striker Alfredo Morelos, who re-joined the squad after a period of isolation on returning from his summer break. However Gerrard was dealt a major blow when Kemar Roofe had to leave the squad at short notice after one of his children was admitted to hospital. With Zambian striker Fashion Sakala omitted from the squad entirely, it forced a far earlier introduction to the starting eleven for Alfredo Morelos than was initially intended.
With the return to the team of such players as Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Morelos, you would have been forgiven for expecting a higher standard of performance to that which Rangers produced on Tuesday night, but in truth this was a continuation of Tuesday's below par performance.
Dundee Utd were without Lawrence Shankland, whom it would appear is the subject of a potential move to Belgium, although the official reason given for his absence was a hip injury picked up in training on Friday. United would not miss the striker.
This was a bad day for the new players at the club. Sakala, as mentioned earlier, was omitted from the squad completely and John Lundstram had another poor day at the office. The former Sheffield Utd man has looked slow and off the pace for large chunks of his game time so far, and he was culpable for United’s winner, not following the run of Jamie Robson as he ran onto a deflected pass which put him through to shoot low and hard past Jon McLaughlin in the 64th minute. Lundstram was replaced by Scott Wright five minutes later.
With the omission of Sakala, who has struggled to get into the games has featured in, the poor performances Lundstram and the unavailability of Nnamdi Ofoborh through a heart issue, Gerrard is still waiting on a meaningful contribution from any of his summer signings. Good recruitment has been the cornerstone of Gerrard’s success at Rangers, he will be hoping the early struggles of his newest recruits will soon pass.
Gerrard also remains without Ryan Jack whom has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation. “He'll probably be another couple of weeks, all being well”, said Gerrard at his press conference on Friday morning. Reassurance that Jack is close to returning a reoccurring narrative in recent months, the player and his manager must be praying that the surgery in the summer will finally put an end to such updates.
As was the case against Malmo, there was a disjointed and off the pace look to Rangers performance at Tannadice and given the importance of the return leg against the Swede’s at Ibrox on Tuesday night, Gerrard will need to find a way to put the intensity back into Rangers’ game.
Even after going a goal down Rangers struggled to find the desired reaction to get themselves back into the game, although Tavernier did pull a good save from Siegrist in the Utd goal with a shot from distance, and Connor Goldson came tantalisingly close to an equaliser when he headed a corner just past the post. But with almost 70% possession and 14 shots on goal (only two of which were on target), it is obvious that Rangers are lacking a cutting edge at the moment. Morelos looked off the pace, although perhaps understandably so, Ryan Kent had one of those days that make you question the hype around him and both Barisic and Tavernier failed to put decent enough deliveries from the flanks to trouble the likes of Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Edwards. Outside of Joe Aribo and the evergreen Steven Davis, it is hard to think of anyone who reached the required performance level for Rangers.
Jermain Defoe was introduced with eight minutes to go in a last ditch attempt to get the equaliser, but it was to no avail and Rangers had to accept their first defeat on league business since 4 March 2020 when Hamilton took all three points at Ibrox.
"From our point of view, it was not good enough”, said the Rangers manager after the game. “I think over the course of the 90 minutes we didn't deserve to lose the game but you always put yourself in that position if you don't score goals.
"We didn't create enough today and whilst the game is at 0-0 there's always a risk if you get one or two things wrong. The result and the performance is on me and my team. We'll have to accept that and move on pretty quickly.”
DUNDEE UTD: Siegrist, Edwards, Mulgrew, Fuchs, Smith, Harkes, Butcher, Clark, Robson, Pawlett, Chalmers.
SUBS: Sporle, Carson, Reynolds, Neilson, Freeman, Mochrie, Watson
RANGERS: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Lundstram, Aribo, Morelos, Kent.
SUBS: Wright, Itten, McGregor, Patterson, Simpson, Arfield.
REFEREE: Don Robertson
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