Rangers secured a vital win against Hibs today to ensure they maintained their 16 point lead over Celtic as they head into a crucial seven day period in their quest to win their first league title since 2011.
Hibs had hoped to pose problems similar to those they caused when the sides last met in September when Rangers were held to a 2-2 draw at Easter Rd. With Jack Ross’s side unbeaten in their last ten outings, they had ambitions to cause further discomfort for Rangers in the most horrific of conditions at Ibrox as Storm Bella arrived in Glasgow bringing with her heavy winds and torrential rain.
Steven Gerrard named one change to the side which defeated St Johnstone 3-0 on Wednesday night, with Leon Balogun coming in for Filip Helander.
Hibs created the first chance of the game in the first minute when Josh Doig crossed for Martin Boyle, but the striker was stretching when he met the ball and put it wide of goal – much to the relief of Allan McGregor.
Rangers nearly took the lead in the 18th minute through Leon Balogun. James Tavernier took a short corner to Joe Aribo, who found Balogun in the box. The big defender calmly passed the ball past Dillon Barnes, only to see this effort cleared off the line by Paul McGinn.
Barnes was called into action again shortly after when he made a point blank save from a Connor Goldson header after yet another Tavernier corner. Ianis Hagi then came close with a shot from just outside the box that went narrowly wide. The Romanian would go one better with his next effort on goal.
Glen Kamara played a great ball to Kemar Roofe just outside the box, the striker turned Ryan Porteous and made his way into the box before playing a perfect ball across the face of goal for the Hagi to come in and score his second goal of the week. The teams went in at half-time with Rangers one goal to the good.
Balogun came close to scoring in the 65th minute when his shot was saved at point-blank range by Barnes following yet another Tavernier corner. However Rangers struggled to create the longer the game went on.
Hibs also offered very little, and only had one shot on target after Hallberg curled an effort from the outside of the box which McGregor did well to save. However they always carried a threat and succeeded in making the second-half awkward for Rangers by winning a series of corners and free-kicks on the edge of the box – which were all defended well by Rangers.
Hibs also had a penalty claim in the closing stages when Hagi’s high boot appeared to make contact with Joe Newell's head in the box. However replay’s showed there was no contact.
The scrappy nature of the second-half was probably best summed up by Scott Arfield’s contribution to proceedings. He was brought on in the 76th minute for Hagi, but had to leave the field six minutes later after being injured in an awkward challenge on Hallberg. The midfielder appeared to jar his ankle and was carried off and replaced by Bongani Zungu.
Kevin Nisbet came close for Hibs in the latter stages, and Alfredo Morelos had a chance to make sure of the points, but neither side could add to the scoreline and Steven Gerrard was happy to secure a 12th successive victory in the league.
Speaking on Rangers TV the gaffer said: “"It was a really tough game. We knew that Hibs would be a really big challenge for us today.
"They are an organised team and they stay in the game really well. Their 'keeper has made some fantastic saves to keep the score at 1-0, and while it is at 1-0, you are always going to have those little 'nearly' moments towards the end.
"It is another clean sheet and another big win - Hibs carry a threat as well and we have beaten a good team today.”
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Aribo, Davis, Kamara, Hagi, Roofe, Kent.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Defoe, Itten, Zungu, Morelos, Barker, Arfield.
HIBS: Barnes, P. McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Doig, Boyle, Gogic, Newell, Hallberg, Wright, Nisbet.
SUBS: Samson, Gray, McGregor, Stevenson, S. McGinn, Bradley, Gullan.
REFEREE: Willie Collum
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