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On and on goes Alfredo Morelos, continuing his mission to rebuild title momentum for Rangers.
It might only have been one goal here, down from his double in Sunday’s romp past Hearts, but this was another restorative victory to which he was absolutely integral. While Morelos remains in the mood, Rangers will remain in the hunt.
Seven days on from that deeply bruising Old Firm defeat, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side can feel an awful lot better about themselves. They did what was required here. Losing more ground never looked likely.
Rangers boss Giovanni Van Bronckhurst will be delighted with his team’s performance
Ryan Kent won an early penalty that James Tavernier converted. Then Morelos came to the fore. His second-half clincher was a seventh goal in his last eight appearances and the sign of a striker high on confidence.
In truth, he could have hat-trick. The ones that got away might irk Morelos a little but Hibernian’s centre-backs will be simply be glad to see the back of him. Something similar could be said of Kent, who continued his renewed buoyancy on the left wing.
Still a single point behind Celtic, the Ibrox outfit can now turn their attentions to Saturday night’s Scottish Cup visit to Annan and the subsequent trip to Germany to meet Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League. When they return to Premiership business, they know they must keep stringing together results and performances like the two just recorded. Successive clean sheets will also have bolstered belief in a defence cut to ribbons at Parkhead, albeit that Hibs tested Allan McGregor. A little further forward, another 15 minutes for Aaron Ramsey might have edged him closer to more meaningful involvement for those future challenges.
The tasks facing Hibs are no less clear. Shaun Maloney’s side had some decent moments here, but remain without a league victory since the winter break. Sunday’s Scottish Cup meeting with Championship leaders Arbroath promises to be real test of their mettle. It’s one Hibs need to pass to prevent the current frustration from deepening.
After hitting five at the weekend, selection was simple for Van Bronckhorst. The single change was enforced, with the injured Ryan Jack replaced by Glen Kamara. More of the same was a clear and eminently understandable message from the Ibrox manager.
This was also a personal landmark for Connor Goldson, making his 200th appearance for Rangers. Whether the reliable centre-back will get to strive for 300 depends on the progress of long-running contract talks. As it stands, Goldson is destined to return to English football this summer.
Things were more complicated in the Hibs line-up. Four changes from Saturday’s defeat to St Mirren spoke of Maloney’s search for effective combinations. So, too, did an initial alteration in shape.
A switch to a back four looked aimed at matching up against Rangers. The inclusion of three players capable of operating at left-back was more puzzling. As it was, Josh Doig took the primary role, while Lewis Stevenson moved into midfield and Demetri Mitchell was positioned higher up the flank.
It was, however, on the opposite side of the pitch that Hibs were swiftly undone. Alarm bells clanged when Kent was able to get one-on-on against Paul McGinn before Chris Cadden could offer an extra layer of resistance. A drop of the shoulder left McGinn flat-footed, with the right-back sticking out a leg to topple Kent inside the area.
Referee Nick Walsh pointed directly to the spot and Tavernier foxed Matt Macey – restored ahead of Kevin Dabrowski – by planting his penalty down the middle.
Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun (Barisic 15), Bassey, Kamara, Lundstram, Arfield (Sakala 75), Kent, Ayodele-Aribo (Ramsey 75) Morelos
Subs: Diallo, Davis, Sands, Zukowski, Roofe, McLaughlin
Booked: Tavernier, Barisic
Manager: Giovanni Van Bronckhurst
Hinernian (4-4-1-1): Macey, McGinn (Jasper 12), Porteous, Bushiri, Doig, Cadden, Stevenson (Campbell 72′), Doyle-Hayes, Mitchell (Doidge 71), Henderson (Mueller 64), Nisbet
Subs: Wright, Dabrowski, Allan, McGregor, Scott, Campbell
Booked: Bushiri, Stevenson
Manager: Shaun Maloney
Five minutes gone and the Easter Road side were behind. The concession was also McGinn’s last involvement of note as he hobbled out after being hurt in an aerial challenge with Leon Balogun. On came Fulham loanee Sylvester Jasper to offer another attacking outlet, meaning a rapid abandonment of the back four experiment.
Balogun only lasted 60 seconds more before he also succumbed to the force of an awkward landing. Borna Barisic was introduced at left-back, with Calvin Bassey shifted infield.
The tweaks seemed to impact more on Rangers than their visitors. Barisic and Goldson were both booked for fouls as Hibs found pockets of space to exploit.
Actual sights of goal were trickier to come by, but Kevin Nisbet might have done better when connecting with a cross from the left. Mitchell sent a free-kick onto the roof of the net before Ewan Henderson used another set-piece to test Allan McGregor from distance.
Van Bronckhorst’s side had earlier missed a chance to quickly double their lead when Scott Arfield guided a shot wide of Macey’s left-hand post from a delicious Tavernier delivery.
As Rangers found their flow again, Morelos fired in a dipping strike that Macey touched wide. The next clear opportunity came 11 minutes before the break, thanks to a gift from Ryan Porteous.
Another chapter looked set to be written in the centre-back’s complicated story against Rangers when sent a pass from inside his own area straight to the feet of Arfield. A quick interchange with Kamara allowed the midfielder to feed Morelos in a prime position, but the Colombian’s first touch was ragged. Forced to adjust his feet, he could only tug a low strike off target.
Morelos wouldn’t have to wait too long for his moment. Twelve minutes after the restart, he struck to effectively wrap up the victory.
It was a fine finish, too – adding to his admirable line-up play. The assist wasn’t bad either. Sizing up his options, Tavernier slipped a perfectly weighted pass down the outside of Rocky Bushiri. The on-loan Norwich defender didn’t see Morelos coming to take up possession inside the area. A high, crashing finish beyond Macey did the rest.
Ibrox further erupted with news of Aberdeen briefly levelling against Celtic, only for the next bulletin from the north-east to deliver less welcome news.
Postitivity continued to be found on the pitch, though. Tavernier picked out Morelos with another fine pass. This time, the striker went with an attempted dink past Macey but didn’t quite get enough elevation.
Then Kent fired one at the goalkeeper before opposite number McGregor had to be agile to deny Jasper in stoppage time.
Source: DailyMail Sports