Rangers 1-0 Dundee United: Van Bronckhorst makes change after just SIX minutes as Ibrox side toil to victory

With their least impressive performance under his management so far, Rangers secured perhaps as significant a victory as any Giovanni van Bronckhorst has overseen since taking charge last month.

Rangers captain James Tavernier scores the only goal of the game against Dundee United at Ibrox with a 71st minute penalty kick. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Rangers captain James Tavernier scores the only goal of the game against Dundee United at Ibrox with a 71st minute penalty kick. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

James Tavernier’s 71st minute penalty kick was enough to make it six league wins out of six for van Bronckhorst and stretch their lead over Celtic at the top of the Premiership table to seven points.

But how hard the Scottish champions had to work for it against a Dundee United side which belied the Covid-related issues which had presented head coach Thomas Courts with so many selection issues.

With four teenagers in their starting line-up, including 16-year-old debutant Craig Moore, United produced a display full of grit, purpose and tactical awareness which was to their great credit and that of Courts.

Darren Watson comes close to a dramatic late equaliser for Dundee United at Ibrox with this header which struck the crossbar. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

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For long enough, it seemed as if their efforts would earn them at least a point. Even after falling behind, they continued to cause Rangers any number of difficulties and almost salvaged a draw when 18-year-old Darren Watson struck the crossbar in stoppage time.

It was an afternoon van Bronckhorst would simply be relieved to emerge from with no damage done in Rangers’ title defence.

There was a short-lived and abortive experiment from the Dutchman who was forced to recast his back four in the absence of Borna Barisic.

Rangers initially lined up with Nathan Patterson at right-back, captain Tavernier moving inside to partner Connor Goldson in central defence while Calvin Bassey went to left-back.

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That lasted all of six minutes as a bright start from United caused the hosts all kinds of discomfort. Tavernier was caught on his heels as Adrian Sporle ran at him to set up a chance for Nicky Clark, whose shot was saved by Allan McGregor, before Patterson had to hack a Chris Mochrie shot to safety.

Van Bronckhorst didn’t hang around, ordering a reshuffle which saw Tavernier revert to his more natural environment at right-back and Patterson switch to the opposite flank as Bassey moved back inside to join Goldson.

The first half was a real toil for Rangers whose only effort on target came in the 45th minute when Trevor Carson made a fine save to touch a close range Alfredo Morelos header over.

Van Bronckhorst made a half-time change, replacing John Lundstram with Scott Wright in a move which also saw Ianis Hagi deployed in a more central position.

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It brought a level of improvement and greater attacking threat to Rangers play and Carson was called into action again when he made another smart stop to deny the lively Wright.

Joe Aribo, left out of the starting line-up as he was a booking away from a ban which would have ruled him out of the Old Firm game at Celtic Park on January 2, then joined the fray.

As Rangers tried to increase the tempo, a rash error from Scott McMann provided the breakthrough. The United defender stuck out an arm to block a cross from Tavernier, leaving referee Alan Muir with a simple decision. Tavernier emphatically smashed home the spot-kick.

Aribo should have sealed it for Rangers in stoppage time but saw his shot deflected wide. It left the nervy hosts hanging on and fortunate not to concede in stoppage time when Watson’s header struck the top of the bar.

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Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Patterson; Arfield (Aribo 64), Lundstram (Wright 46), Kamara; Hagi, Morelos, Kent. Subs not used: McLaughlin, Simpson, King, Bacuna, Sakala.

Dundee United (3-5-2): Carson, Edwards, Mulgrew, McMann; Watson, Meekison, Moore (Smith 69), Mochrie (Hoti 65), Sporle; Clark, Glass (Appere 58). Subs not used: Newman, Chalmers, Thomson, O'Donnell.

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