Rangers’ run in the Europa League came to an end at Ibrox on Thursday as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Slavia Prague, with both Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun seeing red for Steven Gerrard’s side in the second half.
The Liverpool legend took a big risk in selecting the Nigerian international ahead of Filip Helander at centre-back for the tie and unfortunately it did not pay off as the former Wigan Athletic man endured a nightmare display even before his early bath.
As per SofaScore, the 32-year-old earned a 5.9 rating for his performance, which was the worst of any player who started the game.
The centre-back was on tenterhooks for almost the entire match after picking up an early booking, which makes it even more baffling as to why he wasn’t replaced by Gerrard at half-time.
Many Rangers fans were confused as to why Helander didn’t start the game when replying to the team news on Twitter, especially after the Swedish international scored the equaliser in the first leg last week, with many disappointed to see Balogun start.
The Nigerian was perhaps fortunate not to concede a first half penalty when he gave the ball away before finding himself the wrong side of the Slavia attacker but was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee on that occasion.
However, the man in the middle was left with no choice when Balogun made a ridiculous challenge in the second half when Rangers were already down to ten men, as he compounded an awful display by getting himself sent off.
Although Balogun has performed well for Rangers in the Premiership this season, averaging a 7.09 rating, this still rates him below both Helander and Conor Goldson, so it was a surprise to see him start.
The Nigerian international has averaged a less impressive 6.76 rating in the Europa League and was very poor in the 5-2 win against Royal Antwerp recently when he was substituted at half-time by Gerrard.
Therefore, it was something of a tactical disasterclass from Gerrard to select him ahead of Helander for such an important game, but perhaps even more baffling that he kept him on at half-time when it was clear that he was struggling and susceptible to pick up a red card.
Of course, it’s easy to criticise in retrospect and, if Balogun had performed superbly in a Rangers win, then we would probably be talking about how it was such a good decision by Gerrard to start him. However, the reality is that the Gers were let down by Gerrard’s decision to select the Nigerian ahead of Helander on Thursday.