IF ever there was a match that could be termed “must-win” for a team it was Rangers meeting with Ladbrokes Premiership leaders Hearts.

But Steven Gerrard’s men handled the pressure of their encounter with Craig Levein’s unbeaten charges superbly and administered an emphatic victory.

They pulled within five points of the Tynecastle club, who are now just two points ahead of their Edinburgh rivals Hibernian in the table, and will fancy their chances of drawing even nearer in the coming weeks after an assured all-round display.


No. The Hearts players thought it was. They all stood rooted to the spot and appealed to referee John Beaton and his assistant Frank Connor. But Alfredo Morelos was onside when James Tavernier floated the free-kick into their area. Uche Ikpazu made sure of that.

The issue then was whether his Rangers team mates Scott Arfield. Connor Goldson and Joe Worrall were active? The laws of the game state that a player in an offside position when the ball is touched forward is only penalised on becoming involved in active play when he either makes contact with the ball or interferes with an opponent by obstructing his line of vision or challenging him.

Neither Beaton not Connor thought Arfield, Goldson or Worrall did that. Television replays proved they were correct. Our match officials have not had an easy time of it this season There have been a plethora of high-profile controversies and some savage criticism aimed in their direction. But on this occasion the men in black got a big call in a huge match spot on.

Morelos promptly squared the ball to the advancing Ryan Kent who walked it into the net unopposed. It was a clever move by Rangers and one they had perfected in training. “We always work on patterns,” said Gerrard. “But the players have created and finished it so they deserve the credit.”

Levein held his hands up and admitted his men had messed up. “We just got it wrong,” he said. “We’ve worked that particular situation quite well in the past so you have to take it on the chin. One player didn’t come out. For me it’s a gift.”


That Rangers are right in it. The Ibrox club’s domestic form, away from home especially, has been patchy. They have lost to Celtic and Livingston and been held to draws by Motherwell and Aberdeen on the road. Had they lost yesterday they would have fallen 11 points behind their rivals and been in a dire predicament.

But they produced the when it really mattered yesterday. Some of their play was a delight to watch. It augurs well for the remainder of the 2018/19 campaign. If they can start grinding out triumphs at grounds other than they own they will climb the table and contend.


He is indeed. Fresh from scoring two goals in a Europa League group game victory over Rapid Vienna at Ibrox on Thursday evening, the striker netted one and had a hand in two others. He is enjoying a rich vein of form at the moment and took his tally for the 2018/19 campaign to 11 with his first-half goal. Expect more after the international break.


Not at all. Strangely, Hearts showed why they had built up a five point lead going into the weekend with their play from middle to front yesterday.

Indeed, the Rangers defence, Allan McGregor in particular, were made to work hard. Just a minute after they fell behind McGregor denied his former Rangers and current Scotland team mate Steven Naismith with his legs. The keeper then palmed an Ichpeazu attempt wide for a corner shortly after that.

Had the visitors done better in the final third when the score was 1-0 and drawn level then the outcome could have been different.

The Tynecastle club, though, will have to defend far better than they did yesterday to remain in first place. They had only conceded three goals in seven league games, including a home match against Celtic, prior to yesterday. That was the best record in the top flight. But yesterday they were found wanting in that crucial department.

Still, Craig Levein’s men showed no shortage of fight and impressed at times going forward. They scored through Jimmy Dunne after Michael Smith had been sent off for a second bookable offence and could have netted another with 10 minutes remaining. McGregor did superbly to block an Arnaud Djoum effort.

This is the first defeat Hearts have suffered in eight games. They are not going to go away any time soon. Levein is certainly far from despondent. “We had as many chances today as I’ve ever had, coming to Ibrox” he said. “Possession, there wasn’t much in it, and we had 40 minutes with ten men. Chances, there was nothing much in it. Shots on target I think was six to four.”


An enjoyable afternoon got better for Rangers when Ryan Jack made his return from injury in the second-half. The centre midfielder, who suffered a calf injury on Scotland duty last month, has been badly missed by his side and will increase the options available to his manager in the run of domestic and European fixtures he has coming up.