How Rangers kept in touch with Celtic as Hibs winless run continues

Alfredo Morelos scored his 16th goal of the season as Rangers beat Hibs 2-0 at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

A fifth minute penalty from captain James Tavernier and a second half strike from Alfredo Morelos – his 16th of the season – proved sufficient to see off a Hibs side who competed well for long periods but saw their worrying winless league run under Shaun Maloney stretch to six games.

Morelos was outstanding for Rangers once more, underlining just how crucial he is to the champions’ hopes of retaining their crown in the remaining 12 games of the campaign.

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The loudest cheer on a bitterly cold night at Ibrox came when news of Aberdeen’s equalizer against Celtic at Pittodrie filtered through, only to be quelled rapidly by the winner for their Old Firm rivals.

Rangers captain James Tavernier opened the scoring against Hibs at Ibrox with a fifth minute penalty kick. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group)

Hibs could have no complaint about the penalty award which allowed Rangers to get off to the perfect start. It was an easy decision for referee Nick Walsh who was perfectly positioned to see Paul McGinn’s rash challenge on Ryan Kent as the winger surged past him into the box.

It was the kind of early test Matt Macey, back in the side for Kevin Dabrowski, certainly didn’t want and the big Hibs goalkeeper’s decision to dive to his right didn’t pay off as Tavernier smashed the ball down the middle for his seventh goal of the season.

Some woeful defending from Rocky Bushiri should have led to a quickfire second for Rangers when his hesitation allowed Scott Arfield to beat him to a Tavernier cross. Fortunately for the Belgian under-21 international, Arfield steered his shot wide.

Play was disrupted by a painful clash between McGinn and Leon Balogun, forcing both players to limp off to be replaced by Sylvester Jasper and Borna Barisic respectively.

Rangers had another penalty claim turned down when Kent went down under a Chris Cadden challenge, while Macey did well to save a shot from the lively Morelos.

But Hibs played their way into the contest, securing a sustained spell of possession and forcing the home defense onto the back foot. Kevin Nisbet should have done better than shoot straight at Allan McGregor from a Josh Doig cross, then the Rangers goalkeeper made a smart save to keep out a free-kick from the impressive Ewan Henderson.

Rangers reimposed a degree of authority before the break and Kent came close to doubling the lead when he curled a shot wide after smart link-up play with Morelos on the left of the penalty area.

With John Lundstram and Glen Kamara dictating the tempo in midfield, Rangers established good control of the contest but there was still a sense they needed that second goal to prevent any anxiety creeping into their play.

It duly arrived in the 57th minute and was superbly crafted and emphatically finished. A sweeping move ended with Tavernier threading a through ball into the path of Morelos on the right of the penalty area and he thumped a shot high beyond the helpless Macey.

Rangers had chances to kill the game off and were well worth the victory, although Hibs’ heads never dropped and Jasper was denied a consolation by McGregor’s superb stoppage-time save.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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