Gary McAllister praises returning Rangers star Ianis Hagi for instrumental role in Livingston Premier Sports Cup victory

The Romanian made an immediate impact from as a half-time substitute

Gary McAllister heaped praise on Ianis Hagi for his role in ensuring Rangers eased into the Premier Sports Cup semi-final at the expense of Livingston.

The Romanian, returning from a 10-day quarantine period after testing positive for Coronavirus, was brought on at half-time in place of the ineffective Scott Wright.

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McAllister felt the Gers were “wasteful” in front of goal during the opening 45 minutes but the introduction of Hagi was instrumental in a much-improved second half display as Rangers booked their first visit to Hampden Park since December.

Goals from Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos sealed a 2-0 victory and Ibrox assistant manager McAllister said: “I thought we ran out comfortable winners in the end, so we’re delighted to be in the semi-final and it’s a case of job done.

“We huffed and puffed in the first half, but just like against Motherwell at the weekend, we were a wee bit wasteful in the final third.

“We lacked a bit of quality, and the manager made the decision to bring Ianis on and it paid dividends because what we were asking for was that bit of guile and quality and he provided it.

“Credit to Ianis, he has had a tough time recently with Covid and has only been back a couple of days, but I thought he looked sharp and brought something different to the game.

“There is a cleverness about him and it is his positional sense, his awareness on how to play the role.

“Sometimes you see players running from box-to-box, but it can be advantageous to stand still and get your position right.

“He’s somebody that’s clearly watched a lot of football. His dad wasn’t a bad player either, so he’s learned from the fact you don’t have to be flying around the pitch to make an impact in a game. We needed his creativity to break down Livi.”

Manager Steven Gerrard admitted beforehand that his side had “underachieved” in cup competitions in recent seasons, and he opted to make six changes to the starting XI on Wednesday night.

McAllister emphasised the importance of having a strong squad to pick from, stating: “It wasn’t a case of trying to rest or protect people. We felt this was the best side we could pick on the night.

“It’s very competitive for starting spots and we’ve won again tonight which gives the manager a selection headache going to Dundee at the weekend.

“We have been struggling a bit in the final third and we’ve got to be more clinical. Strikers thrive on getting goals, so it was pleasing our two forwards, Kemar (Roofe) and Alfredo (Morelos) scored.

“Reach the latter stages of cup competitions is something this club has got a good history off and it’s something we intend to keep going.”

Rangers were handed a major pre-match boost following midfielder Glen Kamara’s decision to put pen to paper on a new deal, keeping him at the club until 2025.

McAllister admitted: “I’m a massive fan of Glen. He’s been outstanding since he arrived, and he keeps improving.

“I watch him a lot when he plays for his national team and he’s someone that plays with a lot of poise and class and I think there’s still a lot of growth in him.

“If he just steps forward and maybe adds a goal to his game then that would add a lot to his CV. We’re delighted he’s signed a new long-term contract because he’s a very talented boy.”