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Rangers boss Giovanni Van Bronckhorst hails James Sands following tough debut

Aberdeen v Rangers – cinch Premiership – Pittodrie Stadium
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Rangers manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst praised United States midfielder James Sands for handling a difficult debut well.

With Nigeria midfielder Joe Aribo on international duty and Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack and Steven Davis out through injury, Sands was thrust into his first start against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Tuesday night.

The 21-year-old January signing showed some good passing during a hectic 1-1 cinch Premiership draw which yielded nine yellow cards – including two for Gers winger Ryan Kent – plus a penalty and more spot-kick controversy.

Rangers opened the scoring through Ianis Hagi after the Dons were denied a strong penalty claim but Lewis Ferguson levelled from the spot in the second half.

Aberdeen dominated possession and had more goalmouth pressure but Van Bronckhorst took positives including holding out with 10 men after Kent’s 83rd-minute red card plus the introduction of Sands, who joined on an initial loan move from New York City.

“It’s not an easy game, so I think he did well,” the Dutchman told Rangers TV.

“It was a difficult game not only for him but for us as a team, and I think he did well, especially in the second half when we had John (Lundstram) on to give us more power in midfield.

“It was too bad we conceded a penalty but after that, we did well and I am glad we kept a point.”

Skipper James Tavernier was also impressed with Sands.

“He has gelled in really quickly to the squad,” the right-back said. “It was obviously a big test for him but I thought he handled himself really well and he’s a player we can use in the future.

“He’s a great squad player to keep the levels high, especially when Joe is away at the minute, but that is the quality we are bringing in.

“But ultimately we are disappointed to come away with a point. We came to get the three points but we didn’t reach the levels we know we can, especially second half.

“We let them have too many chances, which we haven’t been recently. We know we need to look back on it and improve on so it’s not as easy for the opposition to break the lines. We need to improve and make sure we win the cup game on Friday.”

Rangers host Stirling in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup and Van Bronckhorst will consider how much he can change his team.

“I have to think about that,” the manager said. “We will assess the players and make sure we have a good team on the pitch on Friday to get to the next round.”

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