Sport

Dundee United 1-2 Rangers: Steven Gerrard’s aspect proceed their unbeaten get started

James Tavernier continues to find ways to amaze. Week by week, the captain keeps raising the standard to ensure Rangers march on at the top of the Premiership.

The 17th goal of the season of his life was among the very best yet witnessed. From around 30 yards, Tavernier swept home an outstanding free-kick that left Benjamin Seigrist clawing at thin air. Right now, the Ibrox right-back believes pretty much anything is possible.

That sublime strike delivered a first-half lead. When it was lost to Liam Smith’s fine equaliser, Tavernier again stepped up.

Steven Gerrard's Rangers side continue their unbeaten start to the 2020-2021 season

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side continue their unbeaten start to the 2020-2021 season

It was James Tavernier and Connor Goldson who provided the two goals to see Rangers win 2-1

It was James Tavernier and Connor Goldson who provided the two goals to see Rangers win 2-1

Another pinpoint set-piece was headed home by Connor Goldson just before the break to restore an advantage Rangers couldn’t quite extend but never truly feared losing. They are now 15 points clear of Hibernian and 16 in front of Celtic, before the champions play Kilmarnock this afternoon.

Steven Gerrard’s multi-talented side are anything but a one-man band. Even so, Tavernier’s contribution is astonishing. With 13 assists, the right-back has now either set up or scored 30 of Rangers’ 75 goals this term. That’s a 40 per cent involvement. By a player who is nominally a defender.

The Ibrox men should have made life easier for themselves in the second period but chances came and went. Misfortune mixed with misfiring. Alfredo Morelos was guilty of the latter – extending his league drought to almost three months – but United will question why he was still on the pitch to have those opportunities.

A first-half elbow on United centre-back Mark Connolly drew only a booking from referee Steven McLean. Morelos was a lucky boy. Gerrard would have winced at a dismissal on the day in which he praised his team’s improved disciplinary record in the morning papers.

Tavernier swept home an outstanding free-kick that left Benjamin Seigrist clawing at thin air

Tavernier swept home an outstanding free-kick that left Benjamin Seigrist clawing at thin air

Adrian Sporle committed the clumsy foul that gave away the free-kick for the second goal

Adrian Sporle committed the clumsy foul that gave away the free-kick for the second goal

Back from a Covid-19 isolation period, Tannadice manager Micky Mellon saw his side graft relentlessly and become just the third to score against Rangers in the Premiership. They somehow survived further concessions after the break, yet another equaliser didn’t look on the cards. They stay sixth.

Now unbeaten in 27 games, Gerrard can look ahead to Wednesday’s Betfred Cup quarter final against St Mirren and the chance to edge closer to a first piece of silverware.

Having proven the depth of his squad in Thursday evening’s Europa League win over Lech Poznan, the Ibrox boss returned to what would currently be regarded as his strongest line-up.

That meant six changes. The big guns were trained on United.

Mellon’s men had conceded after a mere 13 minutes in their visit to Ibrox in mid-September, opening the way to a comprehensive 4-0 defeat. Their resistance persisted a little longer on this occasion.

MATCH FACTS 

Dundee United: Siegrist, L. Smith, Sporle, Connolly, Reynolds, McNulty, Edwards, Robson, Harkes, Shankland, Fuchs.

Subs: Deniz, Powers, Appere, Neilson, Watson, Hutchinson, Duffy, K. Smith, Malcom.

Scorers: Smith

Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Arfield, Kent, Roofe, Morelos.

Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Patterson, Zungu, Aribo, Hagi, Defoe, Itten.

Scorers:  Tavernier, Goldson 

Set up in a 5-4-1 shape without the ball – deploying striker Marc McNulty on the right side of midfield – United were aggressive in closing down the little areas of space in which Rangers sought to play..

That exemplary work-rate provided a platform to support intermittent forward advances. And they could have had an 11th minute lead when a corner caused chaos within the normally calm Ibrox backline.

Leon Balogun took a swipe and couldn’t clear but redeemed himself by blocking Connolly. The ball broke for Mark Reynolds and this time it was Steven Davis in the way before Kemar Roofe sliced clear at the expense of another corner.

Rangers had looked a little sluggish by their own high standards. Morelos sought to stir them into life by barrelling forward and sending a low, right-foot drive marginally wide from 25 yards.

The next contact made by the Colombian was more controversial. Climbing into an aerial challenge on Connolly, he caught the United centre-back with an elbow to the head.

Almost a year on from his last dismissal, Morelos was fortunate McLean only produced a yellow card. Certainly, the reaction from the home bench made it clear they felt a red would have been more appropriate. Their case had justification.

United were fired up. Smith was off target with an ambitious attempt after Allan McGregor was forced to race to the edge of his area for a clearance. The wing-back would later find accuracy in style, but only after Tavernier had taken the breath away with his own incredible moment of precision.

Connolly’s foul on Roofe was almost 30 yards from goal. But distances seem to shrink when you contain the level of the confidence currently present within Tavernier.

The Ibrox captain locked his target mentally. Then executed to perfection. A sublime right-foot strike sent the ball soaring and spinning beyond the reach of Benjamin Seigrist and directly into the top corner of his net. Just sensational.

Smith’s 33rd minute equaliser was another excellent finish. Mellon hollered at him to get into area as United attacked down the left.

Lewis Smith did score for Dundee United but it wasn't enough for them to overcome Rangers

Lewis Smith did score for Dundee United but it wasn’t enough for them to overcome Rangers

Alfredo Morelos had the opportunity to extend their lead but misfired to prolong his drought

Alfredo Morelos had the opportunity to extend their lead but misfired to prolong his drought

He followed that order and was perfectly positioned to meet a deep cross from Jamie Robson, introduced in the sole change from last weekend’s defeat to Livingston. Finding the target was no easy feat but Smith made it look so. A delightful half-volley from an acute angle thudded into the net via the inside of the far post. It was just the fourth Premiership goal Rangers have conceded all season..

Gerrard’s men immediately set about trying to restore an advantage. Roofe and Morelos both had opportunities before a second goal arrived a minute before the break.

Adrian Sporle clumsily fouled Tavernier in an earlier contest, giving up a set-piece on the right flank. United had a fair idea what was coming. But they couldn’t prevent it.

Tavernier’s whipped, near-post delivery was exemplary, providing all the pace Goldson needed for a clever glancing header that sped beyond Seigrist. That’s the centre-back up to six goals for the campaign.

Now unbeaten in 27 games, Gerrard can look ahead to Wednesday’s Betfred Cup quarter final against St Mirren and the chance to edge closer to a first piece of silverware.

Now unbeaten in 27 games, Gerrard can look ahead to Wednesday’s Betfred Cup quarter final against St Mirren and the chance to edge closer to a first piece of silverware.

Gerrard resisted any temptation to replace Morelos at the break. Without a league goal since September 20, the striker looked anxious to amend that record. He was unlucky with another long-range strike. A complete miscue of a Tavernier pass was less impressive.

Another chance fell at his feet thanks to a glorious, lofted through ball from Kemar Roofe. The Morelos of last autumn would have buried it. Here, he couldn’t quite get a shot away and ended up blocking Tavernier’s path when the right-back closed in for a strike of his own. Another swing-and-miss at a Kent cross followed by Gerrard summoned Cedric Itten from the bench.

Goldson had earlier fired over from seven yards before Scott Arfield took over. He saw a shot headed off the line by Connolly, then struck a post as Rangers sought more breathing space. 

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