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Three things Rangers fans learnt after victory over St. Mirren: Discipline concerns

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Photo: Getty Images.

Steven Gerrard picked up his first league win as Rangers boss as the team in blue overcame newly promoted St. Mirren. Alfredo Morelos and Conor Goldson raced the team into an early lead with a promising start.

Then, a sending off for a rash challenge from Ross McCrorie gave the visitors hope though it was not enough for them to work their way back into the game as they were forced to settle for defeat.

Here’s what we can take from the game:

Discipline is a concern

Two SPL games and two red cards is not the start that Steven Gerrard would have wanted. A hot head in his younger days as a player, he knows all about that aspect of the game but will be keen to stamp it out from his Rangers side as quickly as possible.

“I thought the officials were really, really good today. They got the decision spot-on and we’ve got no complaints. I’ve spoken to the team and praised them for the result. But I’ve also spoken about discipline and composure out there. It’s difficult enough with 11 men. We’re picking up too many red and yellow cards for my liking. But we’ll learn, grow and keep going.”

Gerrard revealed his frustration after the match.

Yet again the dismissal came in the first half, though fortunately for Ross McCrorie his team had already built up a two goal lead. Having just returned to the team, he could live to regret making such a rash mistake.

Overturning Alfredo Morelos’ ban was crucial

He could have been watching from the stands but instead, just inside the quarter of an hour mark, his high press and composed finish showed just why Rangers need him fit and firing if they are to push Celtic for the title this season.

Whereas last week showed the worst of his game, Morelos looked more at home at Ibrox and the pent up frustration on show last weekend was no longer visible. Now, he has to cut it out of his game completely.

Gerrard’s project remains a work in progress

It can be hard to judge a team based on performances with ten men, particularly two weeks in a row, but there are signs of progress already. There can be no denying that Rangers are not yet the finished package but it is beginning to come together for Gerrard.

Conor Goldson can be pleased with his goal and the side included several other new arrivals this summer including the likes of Borna Barisic, Jon Flanagan, Allan McGregor and young loanees Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria. It will take them some time to adapt.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

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Liverpool

One winner, one loser for Liverpool as they trounced West Ham 4-0

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Photo: Getty Images.

Liverpool secured an impressive 4-0 opening day win over West Ham for their record equaling biggest ever win for a first league game in the Premier League era and it was an impressive day for many men.

Some in particular stood out, whilst those not involved may be fearing for how they can break into this team. So early on in the season, there is plenty at stake for many players in the squad.

Here are the key men affected by Sunday’s display:

Winner: James Milner

The dominant force in Liverpool’s midfield, Milner bossed every aspect of the game from his position. Creating more chances, covering more ground and playing more passes than anyone else, he was at the heart of almost everything that Liverpool created and was fundamental to their victory.

With Fabinho and Naby Keita having arrived this summer, it was a strong performance to prove a point that he warrants a regular place in the side and will not have done the likes of Fabinho or Jordan Henderson any favours as they look to work their way back into the team.

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Loser: Dejan Lovren

Returning from World Cup duty injured could have some big consequences for the Croatian, particularly as Joe Gomez stepped up and filled his shoes comfortably in his absence. The youngster looked secure in his role alongside Virgil Van Dijk, making more blocks and clearances than any other player.

“He is not fit. Let me say it like this, last year he already had a few problems with that but he could obviously play – and played really good. Now in the World Cup, [playing] three times [for] 120 minutes it got a bit worse, but I am pretty sure it will settle in the next one, two or three weeks. In the end, it is serious but not that serious, so it’s not that we need to be afraid that it will take him until whenever. In the moment he is not available, that’s true.”

Jurgen Klopp provided an injury update post-match.

With a prolonged spell on the sidelines potentially ahead of the defender, Lovren may fear for his future role. Having ended the season as undisputed first choice, that may change if Gomez can cement himself in the team.

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Liverpool

Three things Liverpool fans learnt after victory over West Ham

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images.

Liverpool begin their Premier League campaign with perhaps more optimism than ever before and their 4-0 trouncing of West Ham just went to show why.

Goals from Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Daniel Sturridge sent the Reds to the top of the table with only one game played and before reigning champions Manchester City face Arsenal.

Here is what we learned from the game…

There will be no shortage of goals at Anfield

Everyone saw just how prolific Mohamed Salah could be last season and it was no surprise to see him opening the team’s account  for the 2018/19 campaign.

What will have pleased fans even more though will have been what came next with a brace for Sadio Mane and another strike for late substitute Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool’s attack has long looked threatening but with a fit and in form Sturridge providing depth and the likes of Naby Keita creating opportunities from deep, it really isn’t hard to imagine any Premier League side being able to stop them.

Naby Keita was worth the wait

Liverpool fans may feel like the last 12 months waiting for Naby Keita’s Anfield debut in competitive action have been an eternity but he has immediately showed why Jurgen Klopp and co. were prepared to be patient with a dominant display.

Keita covered every blade of grass for the Reds as he tracked deep when required but spent much of his time in a more advanced role, behind the front three and looking to feed them in. He may not have been cheap, costing £48 million, but it is clear that he’s the man Klopp wants to build his midfield around.

Never write off James Milner

The most passes, the most chances created, by assist, the most defensive aerial duels won and the most completed crosses.

It may sound like the statistics of a young midfield engine but instead it was experienced veteran James Milner showing that he should still be starting for Liverpool week in and week out.

Following the arrivals of Fabinho and Keita, many questioned what role the 32-year-old would play as he heads into the final year of his current contract and after only one game he’s made his point.

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Aston Villa

Three things learnt from Aston Villa’s win over Hull City: Grealish stands out

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Aston Villa earned their first three points of the season with a victory over Hull City. It has been a turbulent summer for the club, but they have come out of the other side and look to be promotion contenders again this campaign.

They couldn’t have had a worse start as a looping Evandro effort beat everybody and found its way into the back of the net. Visiting supporters weren’t silenced for long as poor defending from a corner allowed Tommy Elphick to score an equaliser.

The game was open and both teams had chances, but individual errors cost the home team. David Marshall was the first to commit one as his poor clearance gifted the ball back to Ahmed Elmohamady who scored against his former team.

The victory was confirmed thanks to a rare Alan Hutton goal. The full-back charged forward without being challenged and fired past Marshall to put the result beyond doubt. Here are three things learned from the game at the KCOM Stadium:

Jack Grealish is a cut above in this division

The transfer speculation surrounding the midfielder has refused to go away this summer and he showed why on Monday night. Grealish didn’t have his best game, but he looked a cut above every time he had the ball at his feet.

The 22-year-old rarely put a foot wrong as he completed 95% of his passes and he got the assist for the first goal. His corner delivery made it easy for Elphick to head home the equaliser.

In addition to his classy contributions in possession, Grealish was fouled more than any other player on the field, highlighting how he was targeted by the opposition. It was clear that he is too good for this division and it will be interesting to see how the final days of the transfer window play out.

If he stays, Aston Villa have a great chance of challenging for automatic promotion.

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Hull City’s defence needs to improve

The scoreline flattered Aston Villa on the balance of play, as Hull City offered a threat and were arguably the better team for stretches of the game. However, they were let down by their defence.

All three Villa goals were examples of bad defending and Hull will be in trouble this season if they don’t cut out the individual errors. The first was poor marking from Jordy de Wijs as he let Tommy Elphick go in the area.

The second goal came from poor distribution by David Marshall. Meanwhile, the third could have been avoided as Alan Hutton charged through without a meaningful challenge.

Nigel Adkins is always upbeat, but he will realise the task ahead of him this season. The defence is his main concern and if it doesn’t tighten up, relegation is a real possibility.

(Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Aston Villa need to get the best from Jonathan Kodjia

It was encouraging to see Kodjia named in the starting eleven for the first match of the season after his injury problems over the past 12 months. Last season, he managed only 18 appearances, nine of which were as a starter.

If he is fit, he is one of the best strikers in the division, as he showed between 2015 and 2017, when he scored 38 goals across spells at Villa and Bristol City.

On Monday, he looked short of confidence in the final third. His poor decision making was shown when he chose to go alone rather than play Elmohamady who was in a better position. There were two or three other examples of Kodjia giving it away cheaply.

It may take him a few weeks to get up to speed, but at the age of 28, he should be reaching the best years of his career. If Aston Villa want to challenge for promotion, they need to get the best out of Kodjia.

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