Morelos ensures Rangers avoid the traditional January wobble

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A second-half goal from Alfredo Morelos secured Rangers three vital points at Easter Road tonight and ensured that Steven Gerrard’s side saw out January without any of the traditional new year turbulence.

Since Steven Gerrard's arrival in 2018, January has proven to be a sticking point which has proven to be ultimately critical in his attempts to mount a title challenge.

But this season Rangers have defied all the odds, and January has come and gone without any significant troubles. Celtic, Aberdeen, Motherwell and Hibs have all been comfortably dispatched, with only Motherwell managing to deny Rangers full points with a draw at Fir Park.

Rangers arrived in Leith in the knowledge that a good result would be a huge step towards the title. With no defeats at the ground since 2006 and the days of Paul le Guen, Steven Gerrard had grounds for confidence - even though he himself has only managed one win in four visits to the stadium.

Gerrard made one change from the side which hammered Ross County on Saturday, with Ryan Jack coming in to replace Ianis Hagi.

Rangers took to the park from their changing area in the North Stand wearing all blue, and started the game well with Tavernier sending in a free-kick which Connor Goldson headed high and wide early on.

On 12 minutes Joe Aribo had a great chance to put the visitors ahead when a poor touch from Hallberg sent him through on goal. Aribo got his shot away, but hit it straight at Marciano in the Hibs goal.

Then came a moment of controversy when Alfredo Morelos appeared to stamp on Ryan Porteous. The Columbian was lucky to stay on the park, and it feels a certainty that the recently very subdued Compliance Officer will find her voice again over the coming days.

Ryan Kent had an opportunity when he shimmied his way into a shooting position but dragged his shot well wide.

Hibs then had their best period of the game.

Firstly, Jackson Irvine fired over the bar when it seemed easier to score. However the opportunity should never have been allowed after Kevin Clancy ignored a foul on Allan McGregor.

Then Christian Doidge headed wide after Borna Barisic had misjudged the flight of a cross.

Ryan Kent set up Alfredo Morelos after a good run, but the Columbian’s effort was blocked by his own captain as both teams had to settle for a draw at half-time.

But it didn’t take long for the Rangers to grab the vital – and winning – goal after the restart.

In the 51st minute Ryan Jack played a great ball to Steven Davis, who flicked it on to Joe Aribo, who then flicked it on to Alfredo Morelos who hit a left-foot shot low and hard past Marciano to give Rangers a vital lead.

Morelos should have made it two minutes later after a great move involving Kent, Kamara and Aribo. Morelos seemed certain to score but put the ball over from a short range. The ball took a small bobble, but it still represented a poor miss from the Rangers striker.

Then there was another flashpoint when former Rangers players Darren McGregor appeared to stamp on Glen Kamara. The booking which came his way was for the push beforehand. However will be interesting to see how the Compliance Officer views this incident compared to earlier incident involving Morelos and Porteous.

Morelos then had the chance to secure the win when Ryan Kent put him through on goal. However Morelos dithered with the chance and allowed a challenge to come in when he should have got his shot away. It was the Columbian’s last meaningful contribution to the game and he was replaced by Kemar Roofe a few minutes later.

Glen Kamara had an outstanding game and he went on a great run which set up Ryan Kent, via Roofe, to have a crack on goal. But his shot was too direct and comfortably handled by Marciano.

In the closing stages Gerrard introduced Bongani Zungu for the tiring Ryan Jack.

Rangers managed the game well at this stage of proceedings and could have extended their lead in injury time thanks to a great run from Steven Davis which set up Itten, who had come on for Joe Aribo. However the Swiss striker hit his effort low and into the side netting.

The win maintains Rangers 23 point gap with 12 games to go, and the clean sheet was Rangers’ 20th of an incredible campaign so far.

Steven Gerrard was delighted with the saying after the match: “It was a big performance, to a man every single person stood up tonight."

“We had to compete and we had to work very hard for the result but it was thoroughly deserved. We controlled most of the first-half and I thought in the second-half we went up a level again."

“We limited Hibs to very few chances and we defended a lot better than the previous times we have come here.”


RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Jack, Aribo, Kent, Morelos.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Hagi, Itten, Zungu, Patterson, Barker, Roofe, Balogun.

HIBS: Marciano, P. McGinn, McGregor, Porteous, Doig, Cadden, Gogic, Hallberg, Irvine, Doidge, Nisbet.
SUBS: Macey, Hanlon, Stevenson, Magennis, Mallan, Wright, Boyle, Allan, Gullan.

REFEREE: Kevin Clancy

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