Sakala and Diallo both score in Rangers win

6 days ago 331

Rangers v Ross County

Rangers' reign as Scottish Premiership champions is officially over despite ending Ross County's European hopes with a comfortable home victory.

The hosts were rewarded for relentless early pressure when Scott Wright buried the opener from close range before James Tavernier added a second from the penalty spot.

County gave themselves an unlikely lifeline when Jordan White curled in, but the Ibrox side sealed the win with late goals from substitutes Fashion Sakala and Amad Diallo.

Celtic's draw at Dundee United means the gap at the top is four points, but with just one game remaining the title is now beyond Rangers, who had a six-point gap and an inferior goal difference of 20 to make up prior to kick-off.

"It was a good performance," Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said. "We wanted to keep winning and keep the momentum going.

"It is finding the right balance. Obviously you want to keep going, you want to test players, but it is also important to get the rhythm and keep on playing and I think I saw that in my team."

The point earned by United, coupled with Motherwell's win at home to Hearts, also means European football is out of reach for County, who are now four points off fifth spot.

The domestic disappointment of letting a six-point lead slip has been dusted away by the building excitement of next Wednesday's Europa League final, but Rangers were still keen to treat their fans in their final home game of the season.

After a spell of early pressure in which Joe Aribo guided narrowly wide and John Lundstram was denied from close range, the Ibrox side opened the scoring after 13 minutes when Connor Goldson's near-post flick on was diverted in by Wright.

Rangers' fluid frontline - with teenager Alex Lowry at the heart of it - was causing County all kinds of problems, and it felt a matter of time before they added to their advantage.

County did well to pack the box and get their bodies in the way, but Alex Iacovitti's reckless sliding challenge on Tavernier allowed the Rangers captain to pick himself up and slot a spot kick past Ross Laidlaw.

Substitute White's fine curling effort from 20 yards gave County a glimmer of hope after Leon Balogun had headed off the far post at the other end.

But the visitors - who were lucky to have 11 men on the park after Jake Vokins' poor tackle on Wright - failed to capitalise as Sakala's diving header added a third for Rangers, before Diallo tapped in from Bassey's cross to cap off an easy night's work.

Man of the match - Scott Wright

Scott WrightThe forward was robbed for County's goal but was a constant option and a bright spark in attack throughout the game

What did we learn?

With a potential career-defining night on the horizon for this group next Wednesday, and a Scottish Cup final to come a week on Saturday, reflection on the Premiership campaign can wait.

But no doubt when the time comes, Van Bronckhorst will have to analyse what went wrong after the winter break.

One positive the Dutchman can take from recent domestic games, however, is the impressive showings of 18-year-old Lowry. The Ibrox academy product looks more than ready to play a fair share of first-team minutes next term.

With top scorer Regan Charles-Cook and first-choice striker White starting on the bench, County boss Malky Mackay appeared to have one eye on Saturday's clash with United.

Regardless of who started, it would have been a tough ask for the Highland side to take anything from the game anyway - but with Europe now out of sight, Mackay will surely question his team selection.

A top-six finish is still a remarkable achievement, but fifth spot was a real possibility. Post-split defeats to both Old Firm clubs have not determined that, though. Saturday's defeat at home to Motherwell is the one Mackay will pinpoint as being pivotal.

What did they say?

Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst: "In the first half we were going at full speed. The rhythm was good, we were creating a lot of chances and there should have been more goals.

"In the second half we could rotate. It is important this week to give as many players minutes to be ready for the games that come ahead."

Ross County manager Malky Mackay: "I am really proud of the players. There is an immediate disappointment because we couldn't take it to the last game of the season.

"But I spoke to the players and told them how proud I was of them this season when you think of the budget of the football club. We have consistently shown we can go toe-to-toe with most teams in the league."

What's next?

Both sides end their league campaigns on Saturday (12:15 BST) as Rangers travel to Hearts in a dress rehearsal of the Scottish Cup final, while Ross County are at home to Dundee United.

Player of the match

DialloAmad Diallo

with an average of 7.68

Rangers

  1. Squad number9Player nameDiallo

  2. Squad number10Player nameDavis

  3. Squad number30Player nameSakala

  4. Squad number26Player nameBalogun

  5. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

  6. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

  7. Squad number3Player nameBassey

  8. Squad number14Player nameKent

  9. Squad number17Player nameAyodele-Aribo

  10. Squad number23Player nameWright

  11. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

  12. Squad number18Player nameKamara

  13. Squad number31Player nameBarisic

  14. Squad number37Player nameArfield

  15. Squad number1Player nameMcGregor

  16. Squad number51Player nameLowry

Ross County

  1. Squad number10Player nameSamuel

  2. Squad number1Player nameLaidlaw

  3. Squad number23Player nameHungbo

  4. Squad number22Player nameTillson

  5. Squad number3Player nameVokins

  6. Squad number16Player nameIacovitti

  7. Squad number8Player nameCallachan

  8. Squad number18Player nameBurroughs

  9. Squad number7Player nameSpittal

  10. Squad number5Player nameBaldwin

  11. Squad number15Player nameWatson

  12. Squad number4Player nameCancola

  13. Squad number32Player nameMackinnon

  14. Squad number26Player nameWhite

  15. Squad number17Player nameCharles-Cook

  16. Squad number24Player namePaton

Line-ups

Rangers

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1McGregor
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 3Bassey
  • 31BarisicSubstituted forBalogunat 45'minutes
  • 4LundstramSubstituted forDavisat 61'minutes
  • 51Lowry
  • 18Kamara
  • 23WrightSubstituted forArfieldat 73'minutes
  • 17Ayodele-AriboSubstituted forDialloat 45'minutes
  • 14KentSubstituted forSakalaat 61'minutes

Substitutes

  • 9Diallo
  • 10Davis
  • 16Ramsey
  • 19Sands
  • 26Balogun
  • 30Sakala
  • 33McLaughlin
  • 37Arfield
  • 43King

Ross County

Formation 4-4-1-1

  • 1Laidlaw
  • 15WatsonBooked at 65mins
  • 5BaldwinBooked at 50mins
  • 16Iacovitti
  • 3VokinsBooked at 58mins
  • 23HungboSubstituted forMackinnonat 87'minutes
  • 7SpittalSubstituted forCancolaat 61'minutesSubstituted forPatonat 70'minutes
  • 22Tillson
  • 18BurroughsSubstituted forCharles-Cookat 70'minutes
  • 8CallachanSubstituted forWhiteat 61'minutes
  • 10Samuel

Substitutes

  • 4Cancola
  • 11Sims
  • 17Charles-Cook
  • 20Drysdale
  • 21Munro
  • 24Paton
  • 26White
  • 30Wright
  • 32Mackinnon

Referee:Andrew Dallas

Attendance:48,474

Live Text

  1. Match ends, Rangers 4, Ross County 1.

  2. Second Half ends, Rangers 4, Ross County 1.

  3. Goal! Rangers 4, Ross County 1. Amad Diallo (Rangers) left footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Calvin Bassey.

  4. Offside, Rangers. James Tavernier tries a through ball, but Scott Arfield is caught offside.

  5. Substitution, Ross County. Adam Mackinnon replaces Joseph Hungbo.

  6. Attempt missed. Amad Diallo (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Scott Arfield.

  7. Attempt missed. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Alexander Lowry.

  8. Goal! Rangers 3, Ross County 1. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) header from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by James Tavernier with a cross following a corner.

  9. Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Jake Vokins.

  10. Foul by Leon Balogun (Rangers).

  11. Ben Paton (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  12. Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Jake Vokins.

  13. Attempt blocked. Amad Diallo (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Calvin Bassey with a cross.

  14. Foul by Scott Arfield (Rangers).

  15. Ben Paton (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  16. Connor Goldson (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  17. Foul by Alex Iacovitti (Ross County).

  18. Foul by Amad Diallo (Rangers).

  19. Jake Vokins (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  20. Substitution, Rangers. Scott Arfield replaces Scott Wright.

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