Rangers 4 – 2 Hibernian
Holt 33, 43 Cummings 23
Clark 65 Malonga 86
In the war of words, only one team could back it up and that was Rangers.
The home team had more desire, hunger and, on the day, cutting edge to win the battle of the top two in the Championship.
Hibs boss Alan Stubbs deserves a pat on the back for cranking this game up more than a few levels with his pre-match chat that sparked a fair bit of interest in the outcome.
Unfortunately, his players deserve a kick up the backside for failing to be believe they could make the journey across the M8 and defeat Mark Warburton’s side in their own backyard.
The Rangers boss continually highlights he has a young team, today, they showed maturity beyond their years and ability to deal with the pressure of this game to come out on top.
The real danger in the Hibernian side is the ever improving Jason Cummings and he posted a warning early on with a glancing header just past the post from a Liam Henderson free kick within five minutes of the start.
Rangers didn’t pay attention to the warning. David Gray’s cross from the right after 22 minutes was only half cleared to Henderson, his shot deflected into the path of the onside Cummings and he calmly chipped the ball over Foderingham to give Hibs the lead and to silence the majority of the 49,995 fans inside the stadium.
The visitors were the orchestrators of their own downfall with some slack passing and poor defending throughout this match. Fraser Fyvie had the chance to set up a Hibs counter attack, but his tame pass was intercepted in the middle of the park, leaving his teammates on the back foot. Three moves later, Jason Holt had equalised with a sweet right foot shot after assists from Tavernier and Waghorn.
That goal lifted the home crowd and the team, three minutes before the break Rangers had the lead.
McKay found Holt in the box and his shot took a wicked deflection of Paul Hanlon to leave Oxley stranded and Rangers heading in 2-1 up at half-time.
On previous occasions this season, I’ve been impressed with what on-loan Celtic midfielder Liam Henderson had to offer, today he was off the pace and James Keatings was ineffective, to say the least.
There was always a sense that there were more goals in this game and the next one was always going to be the most crucial.
Rangers moved 3-1 ahead on 65 minutes, thanks once again, to poor defending. Fontaine had the chance to clear on the edge of his box, but opted to try and pass his way out of trouble. Shiels nipped in and found substitute Nicky Clark with a lovely curled pass, which his teammate cooly side footed past Oxley to give the league leaders a two goal cushion.
Twenty minutes before the end Andy Halliday almost cost his teammates a well earned victory with a moment of madness. The Rangers midfielder got involved in a stupid clash with Fraser Fyvie, no more than a silly barge, but enough for referee Bobby Madden to produce a straight red card.
It didn’t help that Fyvie embarrassingly acted as if he had been punched in the face, but that is the modern day footballer for you.
Rangers now down to ten men and Hibs with more than enough time to salvage something they didn’t really deserve.
Four minutes from time, Fyvie hit a long cross into the box and only sub Dominique Malonga made a positive decision to attack the ball, his low header ended up in the net to make it 3-2 and set up a nail-biting finish.
Hibs threw everyone forward in the remaining minutes, but the classic counter from Rangers finished them off.
Waghorn, breaking out on the right flank, had two options, take the ball to the corner or have a go at Fyvie, one on one.
The latter allowed him space to drive the ball through Oxley’s legs and finish the game 4-2 in Rangers favour.
The Ibrox outfit are now 3 points clear with a superior goal difference, but there is still a long way to go.
Today Rangers won the battle, but the war continues with Hibs and, let’s not forget, Falkirk still in the running.