Gedion Zelalem, the Maryland-trained midfielder under contract with Premier League titan Arsenal, made his loan debut with Rangers on Wednesday, playing 90 minutes and assisting twice during a 5-0 victory at Airdrieonians in the Scottish League Cup’s third round.
Neither the opponent (a third-tier club) nor the setting (7,000 spectators in a town 16 miles east of Glasgow) was majestic, but the occasion offered a beginning for an 18-year-old U.S. prospect in need of first-team minutes this season.
Two days after officially joining second-level Rangers, Zelalem set up Martyn Waghorn in the 15th minute with a sharp ball and was credited with an assist in the closing moments on James Tavernier’s superb individual goal.
Reviews from the independent media:
“The clock had hardly moved on by the time Martyn Waghorn had slipped the ball past the Airdrie keeper after being sent away with a smart through pass from the Arsenal teenager.”
“Under-20 USA international Zelalem looked the part early on and he was again the provider as Gers made it 3-0 with a neat throughball for Waghorn who fired under keeper Neil Parry.”
“The impressive Zelalem found Martyn Waghorn with a beautiful defence-splitter and he cut inside O’Neill, before giving the keeper no chance as he fired low into the net.”
“Zelalem, making his debut following a loan move from Arsenal, was prominent early on. The midfielder was assured with the ball at his feet and displayed a good range of passing.”
“American youth international Zelalem showed plenty of clever touches in midfield and played a key role in Gers’ second as he combined with Shiels to tee-up Halliday 20 yards out. And the 18-year-old’s role in the third less than a minute later was even more impressive as he swept a defence-splitting pass to Waghorn just as the former Wigan man was darting into the box.”
Rangers, atop the second tier with three victories in three matches and a plus-seven goal differential, will resume league play Sunday away against second-place Queen of the South (nine points, plus-five).
Video of Zelalem’s assist in the 15th minute: