With the opening League game moved to Friday evening it gave me the opportunity to take in the Under 17’s Saturday and Sunday games at the impressive Liverpool Academy. It was a six team round robin tournament played over thirty minutes each way. Charlton Athletic, Spurs, Sweden’s AIK Stockholm and Stabaek from Norway joining Rangers and the hosts. Its part of an approach that will see the young Rangers teams take on English and continental opposition to challenge the players and improve their development.
Liverpool 3 Rangers 2
I missed the opening game against Liverpool which was played on Friday with Rangers going down 3-2, both Rangers goals coming from Liam Burt. The feed back I got was that the Ibrox youngsters deserved at least a draw which was highlighted when Jordan Houston’s late strike struck the junction of bar and post with the keeper beaten.
Spurs 4 Rangers 1
First up on Saturday morning was the impressive Spurs side, trailing 2-0 on twenty minutes when Spurs were awarded their second penalty things looked bleak, but Kieran Wright dived to his right to touch the ball onto the post. That was the inspiration for the young Rangers side to get back in the game, Jamie Barjonas free-kick from the right side of the box picked out Rhys Breen arriving at the back post to head back across the keeper and into the net.
Unfortunately an early goal in the second half from the Londoners put them back in control and Rangers were finding it difficult to get a share of possession. It looked like they had found a way back into the game when Andy Dallas chased a fifty-fifty ball with the keeper, when they converged and the ball broke loose the Rangers striker rolled the ball into the net, but the referee awarded a foul against the keeper. Spurs added a fourth before the end to secure a deserved win even if the scoreline was a harsh on Rangers.
Stabaek 2 Rangers 1
Saturday afternoon’s game was a big disappointment, in my opinion the Norwegian side were the poorest side at the tournament. Unfortunately Rangers never turned up in the first half and were 2-0 down at the break. The Ibrox youngsters improved in the second half and pretty much dominated proceedings but all they had to show for it was Zak Rudden’s poke past the keeper after he had been played through by Stephen Kelly.
Charlton Athletic 1 Rangers 1
Sunday started with a blow for the squad with Jack Thomson’s injury ruling him out of today’s games. The first opposition was another London club but the contrast was stark. Where as Spurs were a slick passing side Charlton’s approach was physical bordering on violent, with one player in particular fortunate not to be red carded on more than one occasion.
Rangers took an early lead with a well worked goal, Rhys Breen sent Zak Rudden down the left, he passed the ball across the box for Andy Dallas to net. Rangers were having the better of the game and resisting the oppositions attempts to intimidate, but a good pass split the Rangers defence to set up the equaliser.
Rangers continued to have the edge in the game but couldn’t get the winning goal with the keeper saving from Andy Dallas and Liam Burt. Charlton could have nicked it at the end, but were denied when Kieran Wright got down to his left to turn the ball wide.
AIK Stockholm 2 Rangers 2
Rangers final game was against the Swedes who had six Under 18 players in their squad. The early exchanges suggested they could be up against it with AIK’s striker and attacking midfielder particularly impressive. They took the lead when the striker showed great feet to dribble past two defenders before shooting past Kieran Wright.
Rangers were soon back on level terms, Jamie Barjonas pass was controlled by Mati Zata inside the box, the keeper came off his line to block the shot but Andy Dallas was on hand to knock the ball into the net. Unfortunately the lead didn’t last long, their midfielder breaking from halfway before setting up the striker for his second goal.
Rangers got back on level terms five minutes after the break, Andy Dallas on the left passed inside to Carlo Pigtnatiello who exchanged passes with Stephen Kelly before slotting the ball past the keeper. Rangers again were the stronger team in the second half but couldn’t get the winner, the best chance coming when Grant Nelson’s pass sent Andy Dallas to the byline on the right, his cutback found Carlo Pignatiello arriving on the penalty spot but his side footed shot was straight at the keeper.
Although Rangers never managed a win the players will learn more from these games that games against Scottish clubs where they run up high scores. I didn’t see the game against Liverpool, in the other four games I believe our squad was better than three of the other teams. The exception being the slick passing Spurs side who won all their five games.
Rangers Squad:- Kieran Wright (Gk), Lewis Muir (Gk), Jordan Houston, Scott Gray, Jack Thomson, Kyle Bradley, Rhys Breen, Liam Burt, Jamie Barjonas, Zak Rudden, Grant Nelson, Sam Jamieson, Premyslaw Dachnowicz, Andy Dallas, Lewis Mayo, Matthew Shiels, Stephen Kelly, Mati Zata.