Dundee United’s well organised defence has caused many opposition attackers to fall foul of the offside trap this season, but they could do nothing to prevent Rangers scoring an offside opener in the 5-0 defeat at Ibrox.
A blunder by the assistant referee gifted Rangers the opportunity to take a 1st half lead against the run of play, after Kris Boyd challenged United keeper Derek Stillie from an offside position.
Stillie rushed off his goal line to clear, under pressure from Boyd, but his clearance fell to Charlie Adam, who placed his 40-yard effort into the empty net.
The goal gave Rangers the lift they needed and Chris Burke made it 2-0 just 12 minutes later, after that there was only going to be one winner and a more confident 2nd half display from the home side saw them score 3 more to complete a miserable afternoon for Dundee United.
Craig Levein will be wishing that referee Craig MacKay had called the match off, after an early 8:30am pitch inspection – but the officials decided the Ibrox pitch was still playable and the game went ahead as scheduled.
Even at half-time there was still a chance the match could have been called-off, after the referee and his assistants spent 10 minutes re-examining the state of the turf, but MacKay decided to play-on, with Rangers already 2-0 up at that stage.
Dundee United went into the match without suspended pair of Barry Robson and Lee Mair, with defender David McCracken taking the captains armband for the afternoon, whilst Steven Robb(back) and Christian Kalvenes(knee) were also ruled out earlier in the week.
After returning from an ankle knock earlier in the week, top goalscorer Noel Hunt found himself on the bench, alongside new French signing Morgaro Gomis.
Levein’s other recent additions to the squad, Irish defender Sean Dillon & striker Jon Daly were thrown in at the deep end, finding themselves part of the starting eleven to take on the struggling Gers.
It was Walter Smith’s first match incharge of Rangers, after resigning from his post as Scotland manager to return for his second spell at Ibrox – but on this occasion, both Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist chose to sit in the director’s box to get a better view of the action on the park.
After giving midfielder Barry Ferguson back the captain’s armband, the new manager then assembled a starting eleven that hasn’t actually played together this season, with Kris Boyd given another starting berth and former captain Gavin Rae dropping to the bench.
In total there were 3 changes to the side which had been knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Dunfermline the previous weekend, with Chris Burke, Jeremy Clement and Dado Prso going into the side, at the expense of Gavin Rae, Nacho Novo and Julien Rodriguez(who has since left the club).
Walter Smith will be the happier of the two managers, after watching his side demolish Dundee United in the 2nd half, but Craig Levein’s side made it very difficult for them and never gave up, even after going 4-0 down to the home side.
Dundee United started the brighter of the two sides, with Collin Samuel causing the Rangers defence some major headaches with his pacy runs down the right wing.
New signing Jon Daly had the difficult task of play upfront on his own in a 4-5-1 formation, but had Craig Conway and Collin Samuel in support if he managed to hold the ball up long enough.
Craig Conway had a chance in the 9th minute to opening the scoring, but his left-footed shot from 6-yards was cleared by Karl Svensson off the line.
However, it was Rangers who opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, with Charlie Adam capitalizing on the assistant referee’s offside blunder, to make it 1-0 to Rangers.
Jon Daly should have equalised for United just 2minutes later, but he struck his left-foot shot wide of the goal from just 12-yards out.
Chris Burke made it 2-0 just 10 minutes later – with a 35th minute headed goal from a Prso assisted header.
At half-time, the home support looked concerned that their 2-0 lead was going to be washed out, after referee MacKay gave serious consideration to abandoning the tie due to a waterlogged pitch.
However, unfortunately for Dundee United, the match continued and Kris Boyd continued his lucky scoring streak by scoring his 12th and 13th goals United in his 8th appearance against United (for both Kilmarnock & Rangers).
Boyd’s first came in the 58th minute, when he latched onto a Nacho Novo cross from the right wing, to slot a right-foot strike past Stillie from 6-yards.
Then, in the 67th minute, he headed home his 2nd and Ranger’s 4th, after an Ian Murray cross from the left.
Dundee United didn’t really have many chances to get back into the match in the 2nd half, with Greg Cameron’s square ball along the 6-yard line the only chance, but there was no other United players to get the final touch.
Dangerman Collin Samuel was substituted in the 51st minute to give Noel Hunt the chance to experience his first competitive match since the 16th of December, but it was a strange decision to replace Samuel, since he had been causing the Rangers defence so many problems up until that stage.
Even after losing the 4th goal, Craig Levein’s side didn’t let the heads drop and continued to push forward insearch of a consolation goal.
Jon Daly had a few half chances, but couldn’t keep his shots on target and several Craig Conway crosses into the penalty box couldn’t find another Dundee United player.
With Dundee United pushing forward, it was inevitable that Rangers would catch them on the counter and with just 2minutes remaining a solo effort from Barry Ferguson completed the 5-0 score line.
After accepting a pass from Kris Boyd, the reinstated Gers captain took on the United defence, before sending the ball into the right-hand side of the net.
The final score line flattered Rangers, since Dundee United made it very difficult for them, especially in the first half.
It was a better performance from United than their previous 5-1 SPL defeat by Falkirk, but it was a similarly embarrassing score line that will have the newspapers talking about a Rangers revival and United’s miserable start to 2007.
Rangers 5-0 Dundee United