Rangers cruised into the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup after a 3-0 win over East Fife at Bayview.
Story of the match
An almost completely changed Rangers side eased past their spirited lower league opponents, with goals from Jermaine Defoe, Filip Helander and Joe Aribo. Despite making 10 changes from their empathic 6-1 victory over Hibs last weekend, the Ibrox side ran out comfortable winners.
Defoe displays his class
The hosts started brightly and had the first clear chance of the match, after Aaron Dunsmore found space to test Wes Foderingham on 15 minutes. It was the Govan side, however, who opened the scoring after Swedish debutant Helander found Defoe with 26 minutes on the clock. Despite still having plenty to do, the former England international produced an exquisite first touch, turn and finish to beat Jordan Hart in the home goal.
The League One side tired after the break, and Rangers further extended their lead in the 56th minute after Jordan Jones set up Helander to score himself, with his headed effort taking a deflection on the way in.
New signing Aribo was a constant thorn in the Fifers side, and completed the scoring himself with six minutes to go. The former Charlton man netted with a low drive following a corner, leaving the scoreline a fair reflection of the gulf between the sides. Despite being well up for the fight and giving a good account of themselves, East Fife were simply outclassed by a side who showed no signs of ever giving up a cup upset.
Takeaways from the match
Rangers look to be the real deal
This victory for Rangers - as routine as it was utterly expected - will surely have even the most cautious of their following thinking about silverware. While not the most illustrious of opponents, a trip to Bayview as little as two seasons ago would have had Gers fans slightly nervous. With their predilection for shooting themselves in the foot looking more and more a thing of the past, Steven Gerrard’s men followed up emphatic league and European victories with a confident three-goal victory, despite making multiple changes and handing out debuts to Andy King and Brandon Barker as substitutes. Credit must surely go to Gerrard himself, and with Celtic all of a sudden seemingly vulnerable, few would bet against Rangers claiming a trophy this term. A cup remains the most likely, but the league would now only be a surprise rather than a shock.
Ibrox side have the goals to win trophies
Granted East Fife were limited opponents, but Rangers have now scored 16 goals in just four matches. The Bayview side can in fact take credit for limiting Rangers to just the three goals, considering the far greater pasting handed out to Hibernian last weekend. While Alfredo Morelos was more a known quantity at the start of the season - if he stayed (and stayed on the pitch), he was always going to score - but Jermaine Defoe’s hunger at this level was perhaps more of a gamble. Not a bit of it, as the English veteran is clearly revelling in what will surely be his farewell role. Games against Celtic will of course be of paramount importance this season, and with their rivals proving to be suspect at the back, Rangers undoubtedly have the forwards to capitalise.
Man of the match: Joe Aribo
While the signing of Defoe was welcome, the veteran striker is 36-years-old. The capture of 23-year-old Aribo is far more of a statement of intent and ambition. Despite having options in the Premier League, Aribo chose to join Steven Gerrard in what may be the most serious challenge Celtic have faced in years. Today’s domineering performance will have had Gers supporters purring. With Aribo now adding goals to his already impressive displays, Rangers are looking like potential winners of this trophy. Further improvement may even see them challenging for bigger honours.