THE cinch Premiership trophy was on display on the pitch at Tynecastle today before Hearts took on Rangers.

If the Ibrox side continue to perform as well as this in the coming months it might not be the last time their players catch a glimpse of it this season.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his charges were, after three consecutive defeats to Celtic, Ajax and Napoli and an unconvincing win over Dundee United at home, under pressure to win in this difficult away game.

They did so comfortably to leapfrog Celtic, who take on Motherwell at Parkhead later today, into top spot in the league table.

Their city rivals’ slip-up against St Mirren in Paisley before the international break gave their chances of reclaiming the Scottish title an unexpected boost.

And they were aided this afternoon when their opponents were reduced to 10 men shortly before half-time; Cammy Devlin was deservedly red carded for a bad challenge on Rabbi Matondo.

Still, there was much for Van Bronckhorst, whose team take on Liverpool at Anfield in their third Champions League group game on Tuesday evening, to be encouraged by during the 90 minutes.

Antonio Colak, who moved to Glasgow in a £1.8m transfer from PAOK in Greece in the close season, started ahead of Alfredo Morelos and promptly took his tally for the 2022/23 campaign to 11 with a first-half double.

The Croatian internationalist, who is pushing to get called up to his national team’s squad for the Qatar 2022 finals next month, broke the deadlock in just the sixth minute when he got on the end of a Ryan Kent cross and headed in off the inside of the right post.

Ben Davies, a £3m signing from Liverpool back in July, made his first start for Rangers since the Premiership match against Kilmarnock in Govan six weeks ago.

Not being able to field a specialist centre half alongside Connor Goldson in the heart of his defence – James Sands had been deployed there in the absence of Davies, Filip Helander and John Souttar – in recent weeks has been far from ideal for Van Bronckhorst.

Would the return of the experienced 27-year-old defender help shore up a rearguard which conceded 13 goals in the four games they played last month?

The former Preston North End and Sheffield United man had only made three appearances in the 2022/23 campaign. But his presence during the 45 minutes that he spent on the park seemed to have a positive impact.

Having Allan McGregor in goals behind him probably had a calming effect. The 40-year-old was drafted back into the first team against Napoli when Jon McLaughlin suffered an injury and saved two second-half penalties. His club mate recovered during the international break, but was named on the bench today.

Van Bronckhorst told BBC Radio Scotland before kick-off that McGregor will retain his place going forward. The veteran justified his selection when he held a powerful drive from Stephen Humphreys after Colak had put the visitors ahead. But he was hardly tested thereafter.  

The fact that not one of Rangers’ summer acquisitions started against Napoli did not reflect well on the Ibrox club’s summer recruitment drive.

When Matondo was left out of the squad altogether in the Premiership game against United a few days later it led to a flurry of speculation about his future.

But the Welsh internationalist returned to the starting line-up this afternoon and set up Colak for the second on the half hour mark. He cut inside Alex Cochrane and then threaded a deft pass between the left back and Stephen Kingsley. His team slotted beyond Gordon from a tight angle.  

The winger was the victim of a crude challenge by Devlin six minutes before half-time as he shielded the ball on the touchline. The Australian internationalist stamped on his heel as he attempted to win possession.

Robbie Neilson became embroiled in a touchline argument with his opposite number in the ensuing melee. But he could have no complaints whatsoever about his midfielder being shown a straight red card by referee Steven McLean.

Both Van Bronckhorst and Neilson made double substitutions at the start of the second-half; the Hearts manager put on Andy Halliday and Robert Snodgrass for Stephen Kingsley and Barrie McKay while his Rangers counterpart replaced Davies and Ryan Jack with Sands and Steven Davis.

Snodgrass, the former Scotland internationalist who was making his home Hearts debut, found Halliday in space in the opposition box with a corner three minutes after taking to the field. But the former Rangers man headed well wide.

Malik Tillman and Morelos took over from Scott Arfield and Colak and the Colombian forward added a third, his second since returning from a lengthy injury-lay-off, with 14 minutes remaining following good work by James Tavernier. Kent added a fine individual effort in injury-time. His contribution rounded off an impressive win for Rangers.