Nigeria’s duo of Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun played crucial roles to help Rangers secure a 1-0 victory over Celtic in the first leg of the Old Firm derby.
Rangers went into the game as favourites, as they have won four of the last five meetings, including both legs last season.
But with the recent unimpressive form of Rangers, Celtic went into the game with optimism. Celtic started the game the better of the two sides, bossing the game from midfield and making it hard for the likes of Aribo to operate.
However, they hardly troubled McCrorie in goal for Rangers.
Aribo played from the right side of midfield, and whenever he got the ball, he was direct with the play and was always ready to push the ball upfront to Roofe or Morelos in the Rangers attack.
The Champions played more efficient football as despite forfeiting the bulk of the possession to Celtic, they created more chances, albeit they had a shot on target.
The second half was quite different, as both sides were more direct with their play. It paid off for Rangers in the 66th minute as Filip Helander headed in a pinpoint cross from Borna Barisic to put Rangers in front.
After the goal, Celtic increased their tenacity, but Rangers were water-tight and didn’t let them through. Balogun, who started from right-back, made four tackles and seven clearances to help them preserve their clean sheet.
The victory takes Rangers to third place, while Celtic remain 6th
Meanwhile, Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa has likened Nigerian star Joe Aribo to former Barcelona and Manchester City star Yaya Toure.
Toure was known for his adept ability in midfield. The Ivorian’s ability to move past opponents easily and control the game from midfield was extraordinary. And he was always available to bail out his team with his goals.
Konsa also sees these qualities of the former CAF player of the year in Aribo.
“Joe’s style is unique. When I was with him at Charlton, he did remind me for a while of a left-footed Yaya Toure,” Konsa told Daily Record.
“But you don’t get a lot of midfielders like Joe, there aren’t many around.”
“Like Toure, for a tall guy, he’s got such great feet.”
“But that languid style he’s got is actually fairly unique in the game.”
Aribo is also confident on the ball, and his ability to dictate play is outstanding. The Nigerian has also proven his versatility as he has been deployed as an unorthodox winger in some games, and he always exudes his prowess.
Last week was pure evidence of his ability as he scored a wonderful goal against Ross County. Konsa was his teammate at Charlton Athletic, and he affirmed his belief in Aribo’s abilities, even from their days at the Valley.
“The stuff he did on a pitch at times was unreal. It was like he was still playing street football. So we knew he’d go far in the game.”