RANGERS under-19s will take a strong lead to Slovakia in three weeks time after a commanding performance against Slovan Bratislava in tonight’s UEFA Youth League second round tie.
Graeme Murty’s side were dominant throughout, and had opportunities to win by more, but there is no doubt they were the better team in this first leg at Firhill this evening.
Tonight’s game came in the midst of a hugely exciting period for the young Gers side given the number of high-profile games they have been involved in and will be involved in going forth.
After knocking out BSC Young Boys here in Maryhill a fortnight ago, the Academy’ Development team travelled to Solihull Moors in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup last week and defeated a side significantly more experienced than them on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw to set up a clash with Wrexham in the quarter-finals.
There’s, of course, the second leg of this tie to come in the Slovakian capital too, while the Wrexham game was today confirmed to go ahead at Ibrox Stadium next Saturday at 3pm.
And so to tonight’s clash, and it was the visitors who had the first opportunity with Alexander Toth fizzing a ball across the face of goal which Rhys Breen did superbly to steer behind for a corner before Adam Matos was able to connect for a certain tap-in at the back-post.
A lightning break from Gers then brought about their first chance. After a Slovan corner broke down, Kai Kennedy picked up on the edge of the area and drove out of his own half.
Dapo Mebude joined him down the left wing, and after Kennedy found him with a pass, he continued to motor before cutting inside and, with the pressure increasing as the Slovakians got numbers back, he was still able to get his shot away albeit it was gathered by goalkeeper Martin Trnovsky low to his left.
Kennedy went himself soon afterwards, drifting in from the right and leaving a plethora of Slovan bodies in his path before poking an effort just wide from 15-yards out, while Nathan Patterson brought a smart stop out of Trnovsky with an effort on the half-volley from just outside the area.
If the opening goal was to arrive, it would surely come the way of Gers, and indeed it did on 27 minutes thanks to more wonderful work from Kai Kennedy.
This time he got all the way to the by-line, leaving his marker in his dust and cut the ball back, via the aid of a slight deflection off Trnovsky, into the path of Dapo Mebude who slid to give his side a deserved lead.
Mebude came close to a second, with Trnovsky pushing his effort clear as he again drifted in from that left wing, while Nathan Young-Coombes was denied at close-range by the keeper as again Kennedy showed some super footwork to get into the area.
The second goal of the night wasn’t long in coming after the break – seven minutes in fact after the restart – and once again, Kennedy was the provider.
Nathan Patterson played a short corner to Kennedy who danced his way round the edge of the box before delivering.
Nathan Young-Coombes got his head to the ball and steered it off the underside of the bar and over the line, despite the best efforts of Rhys Breen to claim it after he made sure by blasting it into the back of the net.
A Kennedy 30-yarder went over the bar soon after, while Lewis Budinauckas was called into action really for the first time in the match on 70 minutes as Slovan captain Samuel Lavrincik had an effort from 25-yards which the Gers keeper gathered easily.
Sub Ben Williamson played a neat one-two with Kennedy down the left, though Kennedy fired into the stand from the edge of the area, before Kennedy then fed James Maxwell down that same win, but he fired straight into the arms of Trnovsky when one-on-one.
Mebude was again denied by Trnovsky from close-range with three minutes left before Budinauckas made an excellent stop from Lavrincik in the first of five added minutes.
2-0 is how it finished tonight, however, with the second leg scheduled for three weeks today.
RANGERS: Budinauckas; Patterson, Finlayson, Breen, Maxwell; Mayo, Miller (Williamson, 72), Dickson; Young-Coombes (Lyall, 72), Mebude, Kennedy.
SUBS NOT USED: Hogarth, Butterworth, O’Connor, McKee, King.
SK SLOVAN BRATISLAVA: Trnovsky, Valentin, Toth, Lacko, Habodasz, Potoma (Polonyi, 82), Matos (Cerepkai, 65), Lavrincik, Hornyak, Rosenberger (Sabados, 89), Lichy.
SUBS NOT USED: Chudik, Orsag, Floris, Lieskovsky.
REFEREE: Rohit Saggi (Norway)