February 07, 2019

Rangers Romp Home Against 10-Man Raja

Glasgow Rangers ran out easy winners against Raja Casablanca in a match that the young Scots dominated from start to finish.

Raja had come into the game off the back of a narrow victory over Aspire Academy, thanks in no small part to their Qatari opponents being reduced to nine men. This time round, it was the Moroccans’ turn to face a numerical disadvantage, although they struggled to cope against the well- drilled Scots from the outset.

After a strong start, Rangers went ahead on 15 minutes. Cole McKinnon set off on a driving run into opposition territory before laying off to Nathan Coombes, who beat his man down the left before cutting back from the byline. McKinnon pounced, turning sharply and firing a rising drive into the roof of the net.

Coombes went close to doubling the advantage five minutes later, seizing on a low free kick to spin and drill a low shot that Yassine Zoubir struggled to hold. The Rangers winger was terrorising the Casablanca backline and, on 22 minutes, he forced an ill-timed lunge from right back Yahya Laamech on the edge of the box. Australian referee Reibelt reached straight for her pocket, showing Laamech his second yellow of the game, which was immediately – and inevitably – followed by a red.

Things soon got worse for the Moroccans, when livewire Kai Kennedy latched onto a pass from the right, jinking effortlessly past two defenders before burying the ball low to the keeper’s left.
The best that Raja had managed in the opening exchanges was a succession of free kicks from wide on the right, each of which had floated harmlessly into the arms of Rangers keeper Lewis Budinauckas.

Reduced to ten men, they suddenly found it difficult to get out of their own half. However, just before the interval, they almost reduced the deficit when Elhoussine Rahimi was set free down the right by a defence-splitting cross-field pass. The tall winger did the difficult part by rounding Budinauckas, but was then unable to direct the ball home from a wide angle.

But it was the boys in blue who were undoubtedly in the ascendancy, and they tightened their grip on the game in the second period.

Rangers’ senior side is currently enjoying a renaissance under the management of Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool legend was once described by none other than Zinedine Zidane as the best midfielder in the world, and his winning combination of talent, determination and hard work remains an inspiration to footballers everywhere, not least this talented group of Glaswegian youngsters. And, if Gerrard was watching from afar, he would undoubtedly have been impressed by the tenacity shown by his young charges, with Coombes delivering a particularly eye-catching performance.

On 65 minutes, he almost scored with an impudent overhead kick, only for Zoubir to produce a stunning save to tip the ball over.

Moments later, Ross McCausland cut in from the left, but his low shot rolled just wide of the far post. And, with 10 minutes remaining, the pacey attacker once again broke free inside the area and should have made it three, but his weak shot from 12 yards out did not unduly trouble Zoubir.

The traffic was by now almost entirely one way, and substitute Alexander Lowry spurned another chance moments later when one- on-one with the keeper, choosing to shoot when he had the option of rounding the Moroccan stopper. Ciaran Dixon then set off on a powerful surge down the right, unleashing a strong shot that Zoubir did brilliantly to keep out, but the Rangers midfielder was first to the rebound, cutting back for Matt Yates to apply the simplest of finishes.

Seconds later, Reibelt pointed to the spot after Dixon went to ground under a challenge from Abdellah Azrour, only for VAR to make its now customary intervention. The referee amended her decision and awarded a free kick instead, although replays suggested there had been little or no contact. In the event, it mattered little, as the final whistle sounded seconds later.