RANGERS finished their mid-season trip to the United States on a massive high they as they battled back from being two goals down at half-time to stun Brazilian champions Corinthians.
After beating Atletico Mineiro 1-0 on Thursday night in the Orlando City Stadium, the Light Blues travelled to the University of Central Florida’s 45,000-capacity Spectrum Stadium this afternoon knowing they would face a tougher test and after the first forty-five that was evident.
Well-taken first-half goals from Rodriguinho and Colin Kazim-Richards meant Rangers had it all to do in the second but they performed admirably, showing great grit and determination, with a double from the impressive Alfredo Morelos and further goals from Andy Halliday and James Tavernier making it a day to remember for the Stateside bears in attendance.
Wes Foderingham returned to the Gers team having not featured in Thursday’s win over Atletico and in front of the big Englishman for kick-off was a back four of James Tavernier, Danny Wilson, Fabio Cardoso and Declan John.
Niko Kranjcar joined Jason Holt in the holding midfield roles with Michael O’Halloran, Josh Windass and Dalcio in advanced positions in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Eduardo Herrera started as the lone striker.
With five minutes of the match played Rangers – who enjoyed a bright start – stretched the Corinthians backline with Tavernier finding the unmarked Windass on the right wing but his cross was headed away.
At the other end the Brazilians then showed their threat when a corner was cleared to left-back Guilherme Romão who rattled the crossbar with a stunning strike.
It was end-to-end football on display and with 15 minutes showing on the massive video scoreboard a clever dinked pass from Kranjcar over the Corinthians defence was taken down instantly by Windass but his near post shot was saved confidently by former PSV goalkeeper Cássio.
Before the half-hour mark the quality of the game had dropped, with several wayward passes being made and on a couple of occasions Corinthians got into good attacking positions through defensive mistakes but failed to take advantage.
On 31 minutes however the Brazilians did open the scoring and it was a great finish and build-up play.
A throw-in was cleverly flicked down the right channel by Kazim-Richards and a floated cross from Jadson went over the head of Cardoso and fell to Rodriguinho who calmly placed an accurate low volley past the helpless Wes Foderingham.
On 40 minutes it got worse for Gers when they conceded again with Kazim-Richards this time doubling Corinthians’ advantage.
The ball was played through to the striker who appeared to be going away from Foderingham’s goal, but his powerful right-foot shot went through the legs of Tavernier, across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
For the start of the second half Murty made seven changes with David Bates, Lee Hodson, Andy Halliday, Sean Goss, Daniel Candeias, Jamie Murphy and Alfredo Morelos replacing Danny Wilson, Declan John, Jason Holt, Niko Kranjcar, Michael O’Halloran, Josh Windass and Eduardo Herrera.
And after Corinthians substitute Camacho had shot over Foderingham’s bar before the hour mark the next switch was made with Liam Kelly going on between the posts.
Rangers were still looking for a way to get back into the match at this point and on 63 minutes they got the goal which brought the game back to life.
Sean Goss’ excellent free-kick delivery from the left was met by Morelos who powered a great shot into the roof of the net from six yards.
It was now game on, and another teasing Goss free-kick from a similar area was inches too high for Tavernier who had made a late run at the back post.
Rangers were now playing with renewed confidence and on 71 minutes they were incredibly back on level terms as Halliday remarkably made it 2-2.
David Bates’ terrific pass allowed Morelos to get in a good crossing position on the right and his low delivery was met by Halliday who, like El Bufalo before him, fired the ball high beyond Cássio before jumping over the advertising boards to celebrate with the Rangers fans.
On 77 minutes things got even better for the Light Blues when the razor sharp Morelos put his side in front for the first time in the match with another lethal finish.
Jamie Muprhy produced an excellent run down the left wing and his cut-back cross was met by the Colombian forward who curled a beautiful strike into the opposite to corner to send the Gers fans into ecstasy.
Surely things could not get any better? Well, they they did when Tavernier added icing to the cake with eight minutes remaining!
A cross from Dalcio was palmed out to the Gers right-back who fired the ball home from close range with the goalkeeper grounded to complete a remarkable second-half comeback.
RANGERS STARTING XI (4-2-3-1): Foderingham (Kelly 61); Tavernier (A. Wilson 83), D. Wilson (Bates 45), Cardoso, John (Hodson 45); Holt (Halliday 45), Kranjcar (Goss 45); O’Halloran (Candeias 45), Windass (Murphy 45), Dalcio (Atakayi 83); Herrera (Morelos 45).