Rangers started their 2024 with a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock before signing off for this season’s winter break.

It was a poignant day at Ibrox as Rangers paid tribute to Absent Friends and the 66 who didn’t return home in from Ibrox on this day in 1971.

The home side’s control came and went in the opening periods but two quickfire goals from Ross McCausland and Abdallah Sima on the stroke of half-time changed the mood. A Danny Armstrong penalty, given after a VAR check for a John Souttar handball, only halved the deficit for a short while with Todd Cantwell scoring a third soon after to seal the points.

The Rangers Review picks apart the game’s big talking points below…

Clement signs off for winter with a win

An Old Firm win will always dampen the mood, especially following five in a calendar year. And of course, there are issues to fix in this current squad but so far, Philippe Clement looks to be the man to provide solutions at Ibrox. This season's complexion looked far less hopeful when he arrived under three months ago. Although two games in hand gives a false sense of where Rangers are in relation to Celtic the Belgian’s record ever since arriving to a, and let’s say this diplomatically, tricky situation in mid-October has been hugely impressive. A depleted Rangers squad have won the League Cup, defeated Real Betis away from home to top their Europa League group and delivered a big upturn in the league. There are still steps to make that the January window must aid and much of a season to go. To win Old Firm games. greater quality in the final third is an obvious necessity. Rangers, however, were not in a title race before Clement arrived but are now. Fabio Silva, on for his debut with around half an hour to go, should improve chances. The Portuguese is still to build sharpness which the winter break should enable. 

Ridvan Yilmaz impresses

The Turkish left-back has had an array of false dawns since arriving for big money in the summer of 2022. Without being able to ever fully usurp Borna Barisic and a transfer window approaching the noise around a long-term solution at left-back has heightened. One game does not change that but Ridvan earned pass marks at Parkhead and against Kilmarnock, was the man of the match with McCausland a close second. And, it wasn’t a coincidence. The Ibrox side normally overloads the right and sacrifices a body on the left but today the split was equal. More movement, interchanging of positions and teammates to combine with suited Ridvan. The Turkish international is comfortable inverting in possession, underlapping or outplaying by the touchline. You won’t see the best out of him if his remit is to stay wide and provide deep crosses into the box. You may well if he’s given license to roam around the left side and play in situations that simply suit his game better. Ridvan's assist for Todd Cantwell, underlapping inside the pitch as Sima remained wide and playing closer to goal, epitomised Rangers’ play down the left. The club spent such a significant sum on Ridvan with the expectation he’d become their first choice on the left side of defence. Although more evidence is required to make that case, this has been a rare run of game time not enjoyed in Glasgow to date that the 22-year-old has used to his advantage. 

The attack steps up

If one topic dominated the Old Firm analysis from a Rangers persuasion it was the attack. Despite creating multiple openings and moments to score a goal, final third play was racked with indecision. Whether it be Cyriel Dessers’ inability to pull the trigger or several other moments where the wrong decision was made. There was opportunity but no delivery. For a large part of today’s first half things felt similar. The home side’s movement down either flank was slick enough to access the final third, even if Kilmarnock were able to break up the pitch a little too often. It was from one of these forays forward that the deadlock would be broken, however. After a defensive corner, Clement’s men made it up the pitch in three actions. Ridvan played forward, Dessers turned to deliver a pinpoint pass that McCausland finished when through on goal. Minutes later, as Sima found himself in the box, he volleyed into the net superbly following a good first touch. In a half where the attacking quartet had failed to find the final action, two moments of incision before the break took advantage of momentum. In the second half, after excellent interplay down the left saw Sima receive wide and Ridvan underlap, Todd Cantwell got on the end of a cross to reinstate his side's two-goal lead. McCausland, still only a number of months into his professional career, has been forced to assume responsibility so quickly under Clement. The young winger can consider his start at Ibrox to be a job very well done. He stood out alongside Ridvan and, in the second half, Cantwell.

Butland’s big save 

Rangers had only conceded 10 league goals heading into today’s game, their 20th game of the season, and the predominant reason for that has been the man in goals. Jack Butland has filled a heavy No.1 shirt at Ibrox very quickly for many reasons, one of which being timing. A Rangers No.1 can spend long spells of a game uninvolved and on the periphery of matches. The task is to be ready to deliver big moments when they arrive and that was the case just shy of the half-hour mark at Ibrox. After a defensive mix-up allowed Kyle Vassell through on goal only Butland stood in his way. The 30-year-old was aggressive and fast to move towards the striker and close his angles, throwing out a strong right leg to keep things level. The immediate xG came in at 0.58 and the Post-Shot xG, measuring the likelihood of the shot going in depending on the quality of the shot, 0.94. This was one of Butland’s best stops yet. While the Ibrox side still have a consistency issue at the top end of the pitch, their quality in goals is so ovbious. 

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