CHAMPIONSHIP side Wigan Athletic were swept aside by a much-changed but rampant Rangers side this afternoon in the Light Blues’ final pre-season friendly.
Goals from Alfredo Morelos, Nikola Katic and an Alex Bruce own-goal secured a highly impressive win for Steven Gerrard’s side as they kept themselves ticking over nicely ahead of Thursday’s Europa League second leg with Osijek back here at Ibrox.
Youngster Glenn Middleton, who has impressed from the bench so far this season, was given the opportunity to show what he can do from the start this time, and he made a bright start to the game.
He firstly intercepted a loose Darron Gibson pass before charging forward and crossing for Alfredo Morelos, who although he headed wide, did well to get anything on the ball while under pressure from the giant figure of Dan Burn.
It was an open start to the game, with Connor Goldson doing well to deny the Latics’ James Vaughan on the edge of the area with an excellent block following some cheap concession of possession in midfield from the home side.
The Light Blues showed in Thursday’s excellent win away to Osijek that they have been working on set-pieces in pre-season, and they came close to another goal from a corner with a Goldson knock-down finding Ross McCrorie, with his venomous shot slipping just wide of the post.
Wigan then had an effort from Vaughan cleared off the line superbly by Goldson, although the whistle of referee Madden also came to the rescue of Gers with Nick Powell fouling Jak Alnwick.
Unlike a typical pre-season match, there was a real bit of needle to this one, and a poor foul by Egyptian World Cup-man Sam Morsy on Daniel Candeias saw him booked, while Morelos also found his way into referee Madden’s notes for running 50-yards to square-up to Morsy for his tackle.
As half-time approached, James Tavernier tested goalie Christian Walton with a free-kick from 2-yards out, while Vaughan missed another chance, heading over from inside the six-yard box to leave the match scoreless at the interval.
Into the second half, and it was Gers who got on the front foot straight away, and came close to opening the scoring.
An intercepted Morelos cross just couldn’t be cleared by Wigan, as time and again, they found a blue jersey, with Greg Docherty having a shot charged down while Glenn Middleton fired over the bar from just inside the box.
Walton then made an outstanding stop to prevent Darron Gibson from turning an excellent Morelos cross into his own net, but seconds later, the Wigan keeper was beaten as the Light Blues scored a goal of real, high quality.
In a very similar move to the goal the Gers scored in Croatia on Thursday night, it was Daniel Candeias who delivered a wicked cross from deep into the box, and with Walton coming looking for it, Morelos bravely put his head in and beat the goalkeeper to it on the edge of the six-yard box.
It was all Rangers, and they were playing some excellent football on the lush Ibrox turf, and on 58 minutes, they made it 2-0.
Glenn Middleton’s delivery from a corner on the Main Stand side was wonderful, and travelled to the back post where half-time substitute Nikola Katic was waiting to head home.
Four minutes later, it was 3-0. A fine run from Ovie Ejaria from midfield ended with him spraying a terrific ball wide for Candeias. From there, the Portuguese’ cross was deflected up into the six-yard box, and before debutant sub Umar Sadiq could head home, Alex Bruce glanced the ball beyond Walton and into his own net.
It was an excellent showing from Gers who kept a very decent Wigan side at bay for pretty much the entire half, although they did begin to come into it late-on, and a Nick Powell header which was well stopped by Wes Foderingham.
Then, the visitors were awarded what looked a pretty soft penalty with former Hearts man Jamie Walker going down under the challenge of Middleton inside the area. Up-stepped Northern Ireland international Will Grigg to strike the ball towards the left corner, but Foderingham guessed the right way and eventually managed to hold onto the ball for a very fine save.
Gers came close to a fourth through Jamie Murphy, with a crunching Scott Arfield tackle finding Sadiq. He backheeled the ball back to Arfield, who found Murphy entering the box, and with only Walton to beat, his composure unusually departed him and he fired high over the bar.
RANGERS: Alnwick (Foderingham, 45) Tavernier (Hodson, 64), Bradley (Katic, 45), Goldson (Coulibaly, 72), Halliday (Murphy, 64), McCrorie, Docherty (Kent, 72), Ejaria (Arfield, 64), Candeias (Kelly 80), Middleton, Morelos (Sadiq, 55).
SUB NOT USED: Rudden.
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Walton, Morsy, James, Burn, Naismith, Dunkley, Gibson, McManaman, Jacobs, Powell, Vaughan.
SUBS: Jones, Bruce, Power, Walker, Grigg, Roberts, Lopes, Flores, Evans.
REFEREE: Bobby Madden
ATTENDANCE: 28, 779