RANGERS Academy under-17s secured their place in tomorrow’s Alkass International Cup 2019 Final with a stunning win over Kashiwa Reysol in yesterday’s semi final.

Goals from Arron Lyall, Nathan Young-Coombes, Alex Lowry and a brace from man of the match Kai Kennedy gave the Gers a comprehensive 5-1 win that sets up a clash with AS Roma in the Final.

Kashiwa, appearing at the tournament for the fifth year, had slowly grown into the competition and having snatched a last minute equaliser to PSG, they were second best in a 2-0 reverse to Roma, before knocking Real Madrid out.

Kashiwa had an early chance in the game when the ball bounced around in the Rangers box before falling to Hayato Tanaka inside the six yard area, but the big defender could not get the ball down quick enough to produce a shot on target.

It was a sign that Reysol had settled first, with the Light Blues side initially struggling to counter their opponents’ combative approach. The well-drilled Kashiwa side were content to cede possession to Rangers, keeping all 11 players behind the ball and ready to pounce on the counter attack.

A fascinating tactical battle ensued, with the Gers looking to get Aaron Lyall on the ball down the right, in the hope that his close control could unlock Reysol’s compact defence.

However, chances remained at a premium. With 20 minutes gone, Cole McKinnon went close from distance, as did Kai Kennedy soon after.

On 27 minutes, McKinnon had a great chance to open the scoring, dispatching a firm header from Young-Coombes’ inviting cross that Masato Sasaki did well to tip the ball over.

However, as half time approached, the Reysol keeper was central to the moment that saw Rangers take the lead. Having gathered the ball, he rolled it short to Daichi Sugawara inside the area, who slipped as he turned to accept possession. Lyall was on the scene in a flash, keeping his composure to slot the ball into an empty net.

Suddenly, Rangers were dominant, and Young-Coombes doubled their lead in emphatic fashion moments before the break. Picking up the ball deep in the Reysol half, the powerful forward advanced into the area before hammering a low shot that Sasaki got his hands to but could not keep out.

From the start of the second half, Reysol immediately attempted to get on the front foot, committing players forward in search of a way back into the game.

However. it soon became clear that their efforts were in vain, when Kennedy sped down the left wing before cutting inside and letting fly, his low shot taking a defection off Fumito Okihara, leaving Sasaki flatfooted and Rangers in a solid position in the match.

A 3-0 deficit was surely too much to overcome, but Reysol coach immediately took action with a double substitution. It was much to his young charges’ credit that they stuck to their task as this pulsating tie entered its last quarter. With 12 minutes remaining, substitute Hidetaka Maie then scored one of the goals of the tournament.

Winning possession 40 yards out, the forward took a few touches before unleashing an unstoppable drive that was still rising as it hit the back of the net. Rangers’ three-goal advantage was restored almost immediately, however, when Kennedy once more tied his marker in knots down the left wing before slamming home into the far corner. There was still time for a fifth.

With the match into added time, Rangers once again targeted Kashiwa’s right back, with Charlie Allen reaching the byline before pulling back for fellow-substitute Alex Lowry to apply a first time finish with the last kick of the match.

Speaking after the match, Gers coach David McCallum spoke of his delight at the Light Blues securing their place in the final of the tournament:  “Yes, it’s fantastic.

“I think that the performance from the players merits the opportunty to go and play in a final.

“They were very difficult opposition, Kashina play play in a certain way that makes them difficult to break down. However, I think our lads showed great patience, but importantly great quality when we got into the right areas.

“It means a lot to get to the final. In the weeks leading up to the final you hear a lot about it, obviously the way that the tournament is ran, it’s ran at a level that’s comparable to international football.

“I think that for us to go and do what we’ve done so far is great, I think that we have deserved it with the performances that we’ve had.

“We’ve not won it yet, we still have another game to go and it will be a tough game against AS Roma.”

Two goal scorer Kai Kennedy, who was awarded Man of the Match for the second time in the tournament said: “It means a lot to be named MVP of a match for the second time this tournament, it’s what I wanted to do and I think that I’ve done well since I got here.

“It’s excellent that we’ve scored so many goals so far and I think that teams will be scared of us for that reason.”

The Gers will now face AS Roma tomorrow (Friday 15th February) at 2:45pm (UK Time). You can watch the game live on rangers.co.uk and facebook.com/rangersfc

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