Rangers 2 Kilmarnock 0: Steven Gerrard reflects on ‘easy’ decision to drop Alfredo Morelos

Kemar Roofe and Ryan Kent on target as Ibrox men set new clean sheet record
New recruit Kemar Roofe, left, converts a Borna Barisic cross to put Rangers ahead at Ibrox. Photograph: Rob Casey/SNSNew recruit Kemar Roofe, left, converts a Borna Barisic cross to put Rangers ahead at Ibrox. Photograph: Rob Casey/SNS
New recruit Kemar Roofe, left, converts a Borna Barisic cross to put Rangers ahead at Ibrox. Photograph: Rob Casey/SNS

A glimpse of a post-Alfredo Morelos world at Rangers was provided in a straightforward victory for Steven Gerrard’s men at home to Kilmarnock. It was much the same as such regulation wins with the Colombian as their focal point.

The man entrusted with filling the Morelos gap, Kemar Roofe, pounced for his first goal that set Rangers on their way. The 50th-minute opener followed a ponderous first period when dominance of possession couldn’t be translated into clear opportunities.

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Yet, the fact that Roofe – or ‘Roffe’ as his name was spelled on his strip – stepped up, allowed Gerrard to have no second thoughts about turfing Morelos from his squad a day on from acknowledging the striker’s head had been turned, yet again, and that he didn’t “look himself” amidst the on-going saga over Lille’s interest in the player.

Morelos was far from alone in proving sluggish in the sterile 0-0 draw at Livingston the previous week. He was far from alone in paying a price, Gerrard remodelling his team middle to front with Brandon Barker, Steven Davis, Cedric Itten and Roofe given starts as Ianis Hagi, Glen Kamara, Scott Arfield and Morelos dropped out. The one-man headline factory of a goalscorer was the only man whose attitude was damned as the Rangers manager reflected on his latest selection, though.

“I want it to be difficult in every position,” said Gerrard. “I want two good players in every position fighting for their places. If I see people who are not focused or who have taken their eye off the ball and not really, really hungry to get this football club results, I have to make easy decisions. Alfredo made it easy for me this week. I want players who are hungry and want to be here. I need to see that on a daily basis, players who want to give everything for the shirt.”

Ryan Kent, subject of a failed 
£10 million bid from Leeds United, proved the antithesis of Morelos. As the Rugby Park men sat in and looked to clamp their hosts by massing on their 18-yard line in the opening 45, it was only the driving runs from Kent, pictured inset, and Barker that threatened to puncture their defences. It changed when the home side began to move the ball quicker in the second half, a cranking-up which Kilmarnock could not handle. Kent was central to that, too.

His 77th-minute strike was a deserved reward for an industrious afternoon. Rangers’ second goal, he claimed it by battering in an unstoppable shot from 12 yards following a series of blocks in a packed area.

“Speculation at a club like Rangers is normal,” said Gerrard. “It is not ideal but you have to accept it. The most important thing is the players stay hungry and stay focused. I only want players who are hungry for the shirt and want to do a job.”

Roofe, while looking slightly off the pace in common with Itten, did the job required of him when he was in the right place at the right time in the middle of goal to turn in a Borna Barisic low cross from the left. “Scoring a goal was a bonus. Getting the minutes was good and it was important to get my fitness up too,” said the English forward, signed in a £3.4m deal from Anderlecht earlier this month.

“I’ve been playing with about four very, very creative players so it’s a joy to play with this team. We play with non-stop movement and the combinations between us are good. It’s been very easy for me [to settle in]. It comes down to the dressing room and the staff. I’ve been made to feel so welcome and I feel like I have been here for a long time.”

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Not long enough for his name to be correctly imprinted on his shirt. A top that will now be retired for fear of his mother’s wrath if superstitiously continuing to wear it.

“I realised it when I came off and JD [Jermain Defoe] told me and I thought he was winding me up…” said the former Leeds United man. “But I checked and it was so I’ll have to get the players to sign it and put it on my wall. My mum won’t be happy they are changing my name.”



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