Rangers biggest title worry is that Ange Postecoglou and Celtic don’t believe in taking breathers – Keith Jackson – Steven Mair

They were kept waiting to give Aaron Ramsey a warm welcome amid the snow flurries.

But it was the return to form of two far more familiar attacking threats which might just have given Rangers fans reason to hope that this season is not hitting the skids right before their eyes after all.

Put it this way, if Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos intend going on about their business in the manner they set about Hearts at Ibrox then Giovanni van Bronckhorst might yet recover from the mauling his reputation received at Celtic Park last week.

Because when this pair really put their minds to it, they often become close to unplayable and that was most certainly the case yesterday when Rangers responded to that derby day capitulation by smashing five goals past Craig Gordon and reminding everyone of their credentials at a critical moment in the campaign.

Morelos scored two and had a hand in the other three while Kent provided a trio of assists just when Van Bronckhorst needed his key men to stand up and be counted.

There was, eventually, a debut for Ramsey who came off the bench to an excited ovation late on but by then Morelos and Kent had ensured the points were in the bag even though Rangers seemed to lose their way for 20 minutes or so at the start of the second half.

And so, even though the scoreline was emphatic, Van Bronckhorst still has work to do to get this team up to full speed as the title race heats up.

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The truth of the matter is, titles are very rarely won by teams playing in fits and starts but that has been the story of Rangers season so far and it happened again yesterday when they were looking ropey and in danger of losing their way.

But Morelos settled some nerves when he curled home his second goal to give his side a 2-0 lead and, in the end, Rangers broke clear to cut the gap at the top back to just a single point.

Van Bronckhorst will also be pleased to have Ryan Jack fit and available for selection because the Scotland international was also hugely influential in the middle of the park.

It was certainly a much needed response from a side which has been flirting with the notion of tossing away the very trophy these players worked so hard to secure last season. But – and there is a but – the biggest worry for Rangers right now is that Ange Postecoglou doesn’t believe in taking breathers.

If anything, the team the Australian has assembled on the other side of Glasgow is accelerating rather than pausing to admire the view from the top and reflecting on all of the good work that got Celtic into this lofty position in the first place.

Earlier on Sunday, they faced a potentially awkward away day at Motherwell and even though Graham Alexander’s men put up a typically robust and spirited performance they found themselves being blown away on their own pitch by a Celtic side which carried on where it left off in Wednesday night’s demolition of a derby without missing a step.

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The sheer intensity of what Postecoglou has put together in Glasgow’s east end is what makes this side look so irresistible and it was way too much for Motherwell to withstand even despite their stubborn best efforts.

That they held out for 27 minutes before Liel Abada swept home the opening goal was an achievement in itself. In fact, the Fir Park men were making a decent game of it up until the outstanding Israeli appeared unmarked inside the box to get on the end of Reo Hatate’s cross and convert from close range.

And when Tom Rogic conjured up a magnificent second, just three minutes later, it knocked whatever wind they still had left out of their claret and amber sails.

Before the break Abada set up Rogic to make it 3-0 with a thumping finish into the roof of Liam Kelly’s net and at that point it would have taken a heart of stone not to feel any sympathy for Alexander and his players. They were being taken apart by a green and white hurricane which is fast becoming a force of nature.

Liel Abada celebrates his strike to give Celtic the lead
Liel Abada celebrates his strike to give Celtic the lead

That Daizen Maeda bagged an albeit freakish fourth goal in the second half slammed the tin lid on Celtic’s Sunday afternoon but the changes Postecoglou was able to make from his bench also pointed to the wealth of options now at the manager’s disposal.

Not only did he let Abada and Hatate take the rest of the day off at half time – replacing them with James Forrest and Nir Bitton – but he was also able to dip into his reserves and send on the likes of Matt O’Reilly, Jota and Josip Juranovic as the second half unfolded into a procession.

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Where Celtic were ill equipped to go the distance when this campaign began, Postecoglou is now flush with quality in every position and fully tooled up in time for the run in.

Which is why Rangers will need star men like Morelos and Kent to perform at the best levels. Yes, Van Bronckhorst has no shortage of backup options on his own bench but the truth is, none of them can do what Morelos and Kent can when they are operating at the very top of their games.

Ramsey, of course, may also prove to be another game changer when the Welshman gets the rust out of his legs after so long out of the first team picture at Juventus.

But the bottom line is that Rangers don’t have time to hang around now that Postecoglou is setting the pace at the top of the table. One wrong move and the run in could be over in the blink of an eye.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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