A Hagi Masterclass
I’ve just recovered my breath from what can only be described as a thrill-filled goal-fest of a game between Rangers and SC Braga in Glasgow last night.
In a match that seemed as dead and buried as the atmosphere when the second goal went in, to something that seemed so electric that Neil Peart would be inspired to write a song about it at 2-2, there was much to talk about during the game. And that was just Ianis Hagi – son of the Romanian Superstar Gheorghe!
Not unlike other matches, this one had many talking points. We take a look below at what happened, and how this most unlikely comeback came to be.
Nothing to Braga About?
Let’s begin by taking a look at SC Braga. They are the “new” swashbuckling team that, under new manager Rúben Amorim, has defeated some of the biggest names in Portuguese football, culminating in a thrilling defeat of Benfica the weekend before tackling the Glasgow Giants.
Amorim has overseen a massive turnaround in form for a team that was struggling under their previous manager, and seen them go on an unbeaten run of seven league games, with an impressive run of form that has belied their status in the league. Dangerous opponents on paper, and so it proved on the park.
Pressing Caused Issues
Braga play a high pressing game with a 3-4-3 system that is designed to cause mismatches and a high press. Initially Rangers struggled to contain them, Braga were just able to move the ball around with ease – any time Rangers players did get the ball, inevitably they were facing their own goal – which led inevitably to many more mistakes and ponderous possession. When they did get the ball over the top, there were just not quite enough bodies in the right place to apply the killer final touch.
Added to this, the pressing game of Braga led to many mistakes in possession, misplaced passes, and people looking lost. Glen Kamara, in particular, seemed to be lost between players, not knowing who to cover. Braga generated several good chances. The opener from Rodrigues Barbosa was, for the neutral, a joy of a goal – unleashed with pace and fury, it left the goalkeeper Allan McGregor with no chance to stop it. As I said – for the neutral – a joy. Not so much for me.
Rangers had a couple of good chances of their own, most notably from Morelos and another where Kent was just unable to connect with a zipped cross.
Interestingly, the high defensive line that Braga kept would prove to be their undoing.
The second half, at the beginning was the same story, Rangers seemed not to be able to cope with Braga’s movement and passing. It was therefore little surprise when they gifted possession to Ruiz and he despatched a nicely taken finish, and the match seemed as if it was finished right there.
Enter stage right, Ianis Hagi. With his legend of a father Georghe Hagi attending Ibrox for the first time, the young prodigy gave a masterclass on how to lead a comeback. His first goal was a lovely step in from the right to tuck in a lovely finish into the corner of the net.
Ironically, a forced change to bring on Greg Stewart, and move Joe Aribo to left back for the injured Borna Barisic provided the small beacon of hope that myself and other Rangers fans had been asking for. Somehow, Joe managed to dribble the ball through the Braga defenders and calmly slotted the ball beyond the despairing goalkeeper to make it 2-2.
With the benefit of a deflected free kick, Hagi Jnr completed a thrilling comeback and sparked wild celebrations amongst the home support.
Credit to Braga, though, they play a thrilling brand of football. It was, rightly, described as “right up there” in terms of comebacks.
I’m looking forward to the inevitable 9-8 scoreline in our favour next week in the return leg!