By Kealan Hughes

21st Feb, 2021 | 9:30pm

Leon Balogun proves a brilliant James Tavernier replacement vs Dundee United

Rangers were emphatic in their display against Dundee United but the performance of Leon Balogun caught us by surprise.

When James Tavernier went off injured against Royal Antwerp we feared the worst.

Balogun took his place and did not do much wrong despite conceding three goals, but on Sunday the 32-year-old performed exactly like our captain.

His dominance at the back was to be expected but he roamed forward with impressive precision and Steven Gerrard should take a lot of encouragement.

A return of 88% ground duels won – or eight out of nine, per SofaScore – evidences the point above about his strength in defence.

Going forward he made an incredible five successful dribbles, four key passes and also created one big chance.

His first-half delivery put the ball on a plate for Alfredo Morelos, who somehow headed the ball straight at the Dundee United goalkeeper.

Balogun’s attacking contribution helped to earn him a WhoScored rating of 8.6 – the second-highest achieved by a Gers player.

It could be argued that Balogun only did so well as he was up against a side placed seventh in the Scottish Premiership.

However, none of his teammates managed more dribbles or assists (WhoScored) so we are confident of Balogun filling in for Tavernier for the long-term.

The defender faces a different challenge next Thursday against Antwerp, in a game where Gerrard will be keen to keep things tight at the back.

That may mean Balogun is less adventurous but we believe he can equal the two tackles and two interceptions he made on Sunday.

The Nigeria international has likely already eased the worries Gerrard may have had when Tavernier was forced off the other night.

Ahead of the weekend clash Stevie G said Ryan Jack could fill in for the skipper, but he then picked up an injury of his own in the first-half.

That meant a lot was resting on Balogun, but he delivered and then some.

In other Rangers news, ‘Dangerous’ – Exclusive: Alex McLeish lauds Rangers ace after win v Dundee Utd.