Upbeat Ibrox send-off
But these are not normal times in the age-old rivalry between Glasgow’s great rivals. While Celtic were getting their party started by getting the point they needed against Dundee United at Tannadice to officially confirm their reclaimed status as Scottish champions, the Rangers supporters remained in buoyant mood as they watched their team beat Ross County 4-1 in their final home game of the season.
Nothing can shake the upbeat mood surrounding Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s history-chasing squad right now. Before kick-off, Sylvia’s 1974 hit ‘Y Viva Espana’ was belted out of the PA system. Rangers are indeed off to sunny Spain next week when they will attempt to win the Europa League trophy at the expense of Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
The rarity of that opportunity, the remarkable performances delivered under van Bronckhorst in the knockout stage of the tournament have ensured that the Rangers fans can just about handle the disappointment of losing the domestic bragging rights.
Squad strength on show
Van Bronckhorst opted for a strong starting line-up against County, most of whom can be expected to face Eintracht next Wednesday. The time for resting key men will come this weekend when he is set to field fringe players and youngsters in the last league fixture of the campaign against Hearts at Tynecastle.
Although he may have a difficult job persuading his captain James Tavernier to take a day off. The marauding right-back looks indefatigable and turned in another storming display against County.
It also saw him on the scoresheet again, smashing home from the penalty spot to double Rangers’ lead after Scott Wright’s early opener. It was Tavernier’s 18th goal of the season, moving him level with the injured Alfredo Morelos as Rangers’ top scorer this season.
Van Bronckhorst, who joked about playing Tavernier at centre-forward, must now wait to see if Kemar Roofe can recover his fitness in time to fill that role in Seville. While he was non-committal about Roofe’s chances, the Rangers manager expects midfielder Ryan Jack to make it.
Strong finish from Diallo
Manchester United youngster Amad Diallo has struggled to make any sustained impact since joining Rangers on loan in January but he is ending the season with a bit of a flourish.
He replaced Joe Aribo at half-time against County and earned the acclaim of the home support with some eye-catching trickery and direct running. After fellow sub Fashion Sakala had put Rangers 3-1 up, following a brief period of menace from the visitors during which Jordan White had pulled a goal back, Diallo rounded off the scoring with his second goal in as many games.
It remains to be seen whether Rangers will pursue the possibility of bringing Diallo back for another loan spell next season but the 19-year-old has indicated there is considerable potential to be fulfilled.
Rangers: McGregor 6, Tavernier 8, Goldson 7, Bassey 7, Barisic 6 (Balogun 46 6); Lundstram 7 (Davis 62 6), Kamara 7, Lowry 8; Aribo 6 (Diallo 46 6), Wright 7 (Arfield 73), Kent 7 (Sakala 62). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Sands, King, Ramsey.
Ross County: Laidlaw 6, Watson 6, Baldwin 6, Iacovitti 6, Vokins 6; Tillson 6, Spittal 5 (Cancola 61) (B.Paton 70), Burroughs 5 (Charles-Cook 70); Hungbo 6 (MacKinnon 87), Callachan 5 (White 61 6); D Samuel 6. Subs not used: Munro, Wright, Drysdale, Sims.
Referee: Andrew Dallas