RANGERS under-19s were held to a 2-2 draw by Premier League visitors Southampton today thanks to a late equaliser.
Serge Atakayi scored two impressive solo efforts in the first-half, either side of a Southampton leveller at the other end from midfielder Harry Hamblin, before Harlem Hale’s strike with six minutes left in the game.
As the new games programme continued, it was an opportunity for head coach Graeme Murty to assess his squad against top quality opposition and his former side provided stern competition in a hard-fought 90 minutes at Auchenhowie.
There were starts for new signing between the sticks, Aidan McAdams, captain Aidan Wilson and his centre-back partner Ross McCrorie, a place in the midfield for Jamie Barjonas and Zak Rudden led the line up top.
After an even start in the first ten minutes, it was Rangers who broke the deadlock through the speed and craft of winger Atakayi. Following good work in the middle of the park by forward Rudden, winning the ball well in a congested area, the ball was switched direct to the Congolese-born wideman. He controlled it well, bursting into the box before cutting to his right foot. The Saints defender lost his footing and Atakayi rifled the ball home low and hard.
After 16 minutes, the English side threatened themselves as a header from a whipped corner went narrowly over the crossbar from defender Christophe Klarer, before they equalised two minutes later. Another corner from the right arrived into a crowded box and a spill from McAdams allowed a ball to be played to the back post, where Hamblin was there to tuck away from close range for 1-1.
There was a slight pause in play as Gers goalkeeper McAdams needed treatment after a nasty looking fall as he grasped for the ball in mid-air. Skipper Wilson hobbled off to be replaced by Lewis Mayo as a physical match rumbled on.
Graeme Murty’s boys regained their lead shortly before the interval through the star of the game Atakayi. The Finland under-19 star was fed the ball on the left flank and surged forward at pace, taking on the Saints defence sidestepping his way into the 18-yard box, before switching the ball to his right foot again and this time blasting high into the far top corner to make it to 2-1 to the Gers.
At half-time, Kieran Wright replaced McAdams in goal with Stephen Kelly taking the place of Barjonas in the centre of midfield. After 57 minutes of play, Rangers created the first opportunity as a great ball was played in the direction of impressive right-back Jordan Houston. The youngster whipped a tantalising low cross into the danger area but Rudden couldn’t get on the end of it at the back post.
Rangers had been the better side for most of the second half, controlling possession overall and restricting Southampton to next to nothing in terms of goalscoring opportunities, but it didn’t stop the late leveller from coming.
With just six minutes on the clock remaining, tricky winger Hale seized upon a loose ball just inside the danger area and fizzed a right-footed strike into the bottom corner to sub goalie Wright’s left-hand side to finish the game at 2-2.