Rangers returned to form with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Heart of Midlothian at Tynecastle in today’s early kick-off. The result takes Rangers thirteen points clear of Celtic at the top of the SPL, and they still have one game in hand as well.
I commented in the match preview earlier that Rangers have been struggling for form. I feared that this would be a tough afternoon for Rangers, and to be honest would have been happy to walk away with a draw given our current form. But happily, Rangers have proved me wrong and they won this game quite comfortably in the end.
Rangers were back to pretty much full strength for this one after making wholesale changes for the midweek Scottish cup game against Dundee United in which they lost 1-0. The back five was unchanged but Kevin Thomson, Lee McCulloch and Steven Davis were back in midfield, while Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd started up front. Steven Naismith retained his place.
Rangers got off to a dream start when young defender Danny Wilson opened the scoring in the fifth minute. Wilson rose above Ruben Palazuelos to head home from a Kevin Thomson free-kick. This was Wilson’s first goal for the club. Hopefully the first of many to come in the future.
Hearts showed great spirit though and it wasn’t long before the were back on level terms. Gary Glen nearly put them ahead, Allan McGregor saving well from the young strikers shot. Santana got the equaliser on sixteen minutes though after an error from Papac let him in to volley past McGregor.
There was chances for both sides to take the lead in the remainder of the half, but it was Rangers who regained the lead after Davis had a shot from just inside the box saved well by McDonald, Gary Glen fired over the bar from close range for Hearts, and Jambos keeper McDonald produced a double save from Boyd and Miller. The keeper raced out to block Boyd, then raced back to tip Miller’s follow up shot over the bar. Miller did beat McDonald eventually though with a thirty-first minute header.
Rangers extended their lead within five minutes of the re-start, Steven Naismith grabbed his first league goal since August after he was set up by the impressive Steven Whittaker. Hearts tried desperately to get back into the game but they were thwarted by McGregor who save from Zaliukas after a previous chance was squandered by Obua.
Rangers put the game beyond Hearts in the seventy-seventh minute when they again got some joy from a set piece. Steven Naismith who was completely unmarked, headed home from a Davis free-kick for his second and Rangers’ fourth of the game. Hearts had a couple of late chances for a consolation but in the end Rangers seen the game out at 4-1.
Hearts MacDonald, Wallace, Obua, Thomson (Thomson 51), Zaliukas, Jonsson, Palazuelos, Santana, Black (Templeton 78), Kingston, Glen (Robinson 70).
SUBS NOT USED: Ridgers, Stevenson, Smith, Nade.
YELLOW CARDS: Thomson, Santana.
GOALS: Santana (16).
Rangers McGregor, Whittaker, Weir, Wilson, Papac, Davis (Smith 81), Thomson, McCulloch (Edu 63), Naismith, Boyd, Miller (Novo 84).
SUBS NOT USED: Alexander, Beasley, Fleck, Little.
YELLOW CARDS: McCulloch.
GOALS: Wilson (5), Miller (31), Naismith (49, 77).