Giovanni van Bronckhorst had his eyes firmly set on the Gers’ crucial midweek clash with his selection and in-game decision
Joe Aribo scored a brilliant goal as Rangers prepared for their important continental matchup against Sporting Braga with a convincing 4-0 league win at St Mirren on Sunday.
The Scottish champions have not had the best of times lately, losing their last two matches to league leaders Celtic at Ibrox last weekend and away to Braga on Thursday.
While the defeat to their bitter Glasgow rivals has extinguished Rangers’ last hopes for the league title, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men can still overturn a 1-0 loss in Portugal and advance to the semifinal of the Europa League.
And that crucial fixture at the Ibrox on Thursday was very much on van Bronckhorst’s mind, as evident in his squad selection for the trip to the SMISA Stadium.
The Dutch manager left Super Eagles fullback Calvin Bassey at home to rest. At the same time, he kept Nigerian centre-back Leon Balogun on the bench, with Aribo the only Nigerian who made the first eleven.
Even when Filip Helander got injured in the first half, van Bronckhorst preferred introducing 18-year-old rookie Leon King instead of Balogun.
There was little to worry for the Light Blues, though, as a Kemar Roofe hat-trick and a Joe Aribo stunner did the damage against the lowly Saints.
Aribo’s 76th-minute goal was the best of the bunch, though, as the Super Eagles midfielder collected the ball, turned, and bent it into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Rangers now have four days to get ready for easily their biggest European night of the season, with a two-goal margin win over Braga guaranteed to send the Gers to the Europa League’s final four.
In February 2020, the last time both teams met at the Ibrox, Joe Aribo scored as Rangers produced a thrilling 3-2 come-from-two-goals-down victory over the Portuguese.