Nigerian international, Leon Balogun, produced a man-of-the-match display at the heart of Rangers’ defence as the Steven Gerrard’s side defeat of Aberdeen 1-0 on Saturday.
The Nigerian was thrown in at the deep end by his gaffer on the first day of the Premiership campaign, having only signed from Brighton less than a week ago.
Rangers secured a vital win thanks to Ryan Kent’s first-half strike but Balogun wasn’t happy with the challenge in his own box from Dons stopper Scott McKenna that left him crumpled in a heap on the goal line.
But he insisted the pain was worth it to keep a clean sheet and earn his side three points on opening day.
Balogun believes he’ll soon get used to Scottish football and was pleased to get off to a winning start for Rangers.
Balogun was a surprise starter in Gerrard’s line up but afterwards, the manager hailed his performance as outstanding.
George Edmundson had started all of Rangers’ pre-season games at the back with Connor Goldson but was benched in favour of the Nigerian international yesterday.
Balogun showed composure on the ball to start attacks and defended superbly in the air and on the ground.
When Gerrard’s team were put under a bit of pressure towards the end, with Aberdeen pushing for an equaliser, he showed a steely determination to secure the points.
Balogun’s display also impressed his team-mates who gave him a round of applause in the away dressing-room.
“I enjoyed the game a lot. I was looking forward to getting started here.
“The second half was maybe not what we wanted but it’s always great to start the season with a win.
“As a defender, it’s also good to get a clean sheet. We accomplished that so it’s a good start for us. I was happy to start the game first of all. I did anticipate it after our training sessions but it’s still a great compliment to get the shirt straight away.“I said when I came I wanted to work and honour the jersey, so I was glad to get the opportunity.
“It was special for me to get a round of applause from my team-mates.
“They told me this is a tough place to make your debut so I’m happy.
“I am just pleased I was able to perform in the way I performed.
“That said, you are only as good as your last match – so I need to rest up ahead of the next game.
“I want to help the group be successful.”
Gerrard heaped praise on his new centre-back after the game.
Balgoun was seen as a fourth-choice centre-back when he arrived, who might have to bide his time behind Goldson, Edmundson and Filip Helander.
But the former Wigan stopper did his chances of a regular start no harm at all with a flawless display at the back alongside Goldson.
“Leon was outstanding. We trusted him to go in for a debut but this is one of the toughest places to come for an away game.
“But he’s just had a round of applause from the players because they realise how tough a debut it was.
“He has been in the door six days but we’ve seen enough to trust him to do a job and I thought he was outstanding.”
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