13 May Rangers 2 – 1 Hearts
Joe Garner and Barrie McKay were Rangers’ goals heroes for the second week running in a 2-1 Ladbrokes Premiership win over 10-man Hearts at Ibrox.
Striker Garner, who had scored a late winner in the 2-1 vitcory over Partick Thistle last week, headed the home side ahead in the seventh minute before Jambos defender Prince Buaben was given a straight red card by referee Bobby Madden in the 26th minute for preventing Josh Windass going clear through on goal.
Striker Esmael Goncalves levelled six minutes after the break but McKay, who had come on to level at Firhill, restored the home side’s lead two minutes later following a mistake by Hearts’ debutant keeper Viktor Noring.
If Rangers’ Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha still has plenty to do to make the Govan side a credible challenger to champions Celtic, their traditional rivals, Hearts head coach Ian Cathro does not have his worries to seek either, despite a creditable performance when they went a man down.
Cathro, who made his managerial debut at Ibrox in a 2-0 defeat in December, has watched his side win just six times in 24 matches and will continue to be under scrutiny, much like Caixinha.
The Portuguese coach made four changes for the lunchtime kick-off as defenders Lee Hodson and Clint Hill, midfielder Jon Toral and McKay all started.
Cathro dropped keeper Jack Hamilton and gave a debut to 26-year-old Sweden cap Noring, signed last summer after leaving Danish side Lyngby.
Noring, who had a loan spell at Celtic in 2013 without playing, was one of five changes with Liam Smith, Sam Nicholson, Malaury Martin and Bjorn Johnsen coming in.
The Light Blues’ opener came from a wonderful cross from the right by skipper Kenny Miller leaving Garner to head in off the far post for his 10th goal of the season.
Hearts stumbled around in some confusion for a few moments but in the 12th minute only a fine save by Gers keeper Wes Foderingham prevented Don Cowie’s well-struck drive flying into the top corner, the Light Blues surviving the corner.
Five minutes later, amid some indecision in the Jambos box, Noring dived to his left to save a goal-bound shot from a Garner before Goncalves went down in the Rangers penalty area under pressure from veteran defender Hill and looked in vain for a penalty.
However, when Buaben was sent packing after pulling Windass back as he burst through the Hearts defence, the visitors found themselves facing an even tougher task.
Amid steady rainfall, Hearts kept pushing and Foderingham saved Johnsen’s header from a Cowie corner before Noring thwarted headers from Gers defender David Bates and Hill.
Defender Alex Tziolis replaced Malaury Martin for the start of the second half and the Edinburgh side were soon level.
Johnsen burst forward down the left flank, past Gers midfielder Jason Holt and squared at ease for the unmarked Goncalves to confidently side foot past Foderingham.
But Rangers’ lead was soon restored.
Defender James Tavernier’s cross from the right high was punched high into the air by Noring and when he failed to gather it on its way down, McKay swept the loose ball into the far corner.
Instead of taking confidence from the goal, Rangers became nervy and Hearts sensed they could still get something from the game.
Foderingham saved from Johnsen’s low drive and then blocked a back-heel from Arnaud Djoum after the midfielder had capitalised on slack defending.
The Light Blues looked more composed in the final stages.
Tavernier headed a Hodson cross over the bar with 10 minutes remaining and Noring, who had earlier produced a fine save from Toral’s long-range drive, blocked a shot from substitute Martyn Waghorn, on for Toral, with his feet as Hearts eventually and unsurprisingly, ran out of steam.