February 14, 2019

Rangers Produce Performance of Tournament to Crush Kashiwa

Rangers powered into the final of Al Kass 2019, overpowering Kashiwa Reysol by five goals to one with a performance that combined attacking panache, defensive discipline and total commitment to the cause. Kashiwa, appearing at the tournament for the fifth year, had slowly grown into the competition. Having snatched a last minute equaliser to PSG, they were second best in a 2-0 reverse to Roma, before delivering a performance of consummate professionalism to knock Real Madrid out.

In a clear sign of Rangers’ strength in depth, Christopher McKee was named as one of the substitutes, despite having come off the bench to score a hat-trick in the 7-0 demolition of ESS. Of course, the player he replaced on that occasion – Nathan YoungCoombes – had also scored three, and arguably carried the greatest threat of their potent frontline. Kashiwa had an early chance when the ball bounced around in the Rangers box before falling to Hayato Tanaka inside the six yard area, but the big defender could not get the ball down quick enough to produce a shot on target. It was a sign that Reysol had settled first, with the Glasgow side initially struggling to counter their opponents’ combative approach. The well-drilled Japanese were content to cede possession to Rangers, keeping all 11 players behind the ball and ready to pounce on rapid counterattacks.

A fascinating tactical battle began ensued, with the Glaswegians looking to get Aaron Lyall on the ball down the right, in the hope that his close control could unlock Reysol’s compact defence.
However, chances remained at a premium. With 20 minutes gone, Cole McKinnon went close from distance for the Scots, as did Kai Kennedy soon after. Both efforts were indicative of the fact that Rangers were having difficulty getting the ball into danger areas, but on 27 minutes McKinnon had a great chance to open the scoring, dispatching a firm header from YoungCoombes’ inviting cross that Masato Sasaki did well to tip the ball over. However, as half time approached, the Reysol keeper was central to a moment of high drama that saw Rangers take the lead. Having gathered the ball, he rolled it short to Daichi Sugawara inside the area, who slipped as he turned to accept possession.

Lyall was on the scene in a flash, keeping his composure to slot the ball into an empty net. Suddenly, Rangers were dominant, and Young-Coombes doubled their lead in emphatic fashion moments before the break. Picking up the ball deep in the Reysol half, the powerful forward advanced into the area before hammering a low shot that Sasaki got his hands to but could not keep out. Kashiwa’s carefully crafted game plan lay in tatters, and their disconsolate players trudged off the pitch, only too aware that they had a mountain to climb if they were to reach a second consecutive Al Kass final. From the restart, Reysol immediately attempted to get on the front foot, committing players forward in search of a way back into the game. But it soon became clear that their efforts were in vain, when Kennedy sped down the left wing before cutting inside and letting fly, his low shot taking a defection off Fumito Okihara, leaving Sasaki flatfooted and Rangers overjoyed.

A 3-0 deficit was surely too much to overcome, but Reysol coach immediately took action with a double substitution. It was much to his young charges’ credit that they stuck to their task as this pulsating tie entered its last quarter. And, with 12 minutes remaining, substitute Hidetaka Maie graphically illustrated this collective determination when he scored one of the goals of the tournament. Winning possession 40 yards out, the big forward took a few touches before unleashing an unstoppable drive that was still rising as it hit the back of the net. Rangers’ three-goal advantage was restored almost immediately, however, when Kennedy once more tied his marker in knots down the left wing before slamming home into the far corner. There was still time for a fifth.

With the match into added time, Rangers once again targeted Kashiwa’s right back, with Charlie Allen reaching the byline before pulling back for fellow-substitute Alex Lowry to apply a firsttime finish with the last kick of the match.