Soccer

Sakala debuts for Rangers in pre-season draw vs Brighton

The 24-year-old Chipolopolo international played for 30 minutes as the Gers secured a draw against the Premier League outfit

Zambia international Fashion Sakala earned his debut for Rangers as they battled to a 0-0 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion in a pre-season friendly on Saturday.

The 24-year-old signed a pre-contract to join the Scottish giants in May but he was not able to make it to pre-season training due to Covid-19 and passport related issues.

On Saturday, he was drafted into his first matchday squad as the Gers took on the Premier League side, with manager Steven Gerrard naming a strong starting XI which featured Jon McLaughlin, Nathan Patterson, Jack Simpson, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Glen Kamara, Stephen Kelly, Scott Arfield, Jordan Jones, Scott Wright, and Cedric Itten.

Sakala was forced to wait until the 70th minute when he came on alongside Borna Barisic and Jermain Defoe as Itten, Bassey, Wright were pulled out.

The Chipolopolo forward’s best chance of the game came in the 78th minute after Ianis Hagi and James Tavernier combined well to put him through on goal.

However, Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele came out quickly to deny him an opportunity to shoot at goal.

Rangers had the ball in the net with 10 minutes remaining to the final whistle after Sakala’s cross found Hagi, who shot from the edge of the box, but referee Don Robertson ruled it out, as he awarded Brighton a freekick following a foul from Hagi in winning the ball, before finding the back of the net.

Sakala will hope to earn his first start for the team when they take on 13-time European champions Real Madrid at Ibrox on Monday.

On being unveiled by Rangers, Sakala named Ibrox Stadium as the only place he wanted to be after he left Belgian club KV Oostende at the end of his contract.

“I’m very happy and excited. I was looking forward to start this beautiful journey when I signed. The only thing I wanted was to be here,” Sakala said.

“I’m very happy and excited, I’m looking forward to continuing a beautiful and exciting journey.

“I can’t wait to start. I’ve been on vacation for some days and then I came here and I was in quarantine for 10 days so it was quite difficult but I was positive about it.

“I’m still looking to get back to full fitness and I believe that I’ve started a lot because I was doing individual training. I’m looking forward to starting with the group and I believe something good will come out of it.”

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