Feb.06 (THEWILL) – After Rangers’ heartbreaking defeat to their Celtic rivals last weekend, a backlash was inevitable, and that’s exactly what happened against Hearts at home on Sunday.
Hearts were neither dominated nor defeated in the first half, and they generated enough to cause problems for their hosts. Nonetheless, a brutal second-half performance by Rangers created a sharp gap between the clubs.
The trio of Nigerian players, Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo all featured in Rangers’ starting line-up, with defenders Balogun and Bassey finishing with yellow cards while Aribo was substituted in the second half.
Alfredo Morelos scored twice on his return from international duty, with Scott Arfield and substitutes Glen Kamara and Fashion Sakala adding shine to the final tally. Rangers led by a goal at half-time, and Hearts needed to score to stay competitive.
Nothing like that since Morelos struck again four minutes after the hour mark.
In the visitors’ best run, half-time substitute Ellis Simms showed great promise early in the second half. They were a little hesitant in the final third, but their pressing play confused the home defence.
Rangers, on the other hand, remained patient and were rewarded with that second goal from Morelos which gave them full control. Kamara’s third, Arfield’s fourth and Sakala’s fifth only added to the misery of the visiting fans crammed into a corner of the Ibrox pitch.
Hearts’ consolation was that none of their European rivals gained any distance over the weekend, with Rangers remaining within a point of Premiership leaders Celtic. Losses to Motherwell and Hibs ensured the third-placed team in the league maintained a ten-point lead.