Rangers managed to take all three points at Easter Road despite being clearly second best on the night. The 2-1 win was very much against the run of play, as Hibs were first to second balls and dangerous going forward all night. This was a win gained through two moments of brilliance and dogged defending.
Rangers started the match in the 4-4-2 shape they’ve used recently. Jamie Barjonas was given his first start of the season, and Morelos replaced Pena. Hibs went with a 3-4-3, starting Stokes, Murray and Shaw up front.
It was clear in the first few minutes that both sides were looking to get in behind the opposing defence. The first Rangers chance came from good pressing by Jason Holt. He robbed McGinn and got a shot away, but it was deflected wide. A minute later, Hibs had a good counter-attack, but the dangerous cross was well cleared by Alves.
On the 8th minute, Hibs opened the scoring. A ball in behind got Murray facing up to Alves. He cut the ball back to the edge of the box, and Stevenson was able to hit a right foot shot. In truth, the shot wasn’t great, and looked set to be easily saved. However, Alves had went out to block, and his intervention sent the ball into the bottom corner.
Five minutes later, Rangers suffered a further blow. Kenny Miller seemed to pull his hamstring, and was replaced by Daniel Candeias. This meant a change in shape, and it seemed to take Rangers some time to recover.
Whilst Hibs were looking sharper and more composed on the ball, Rangers did create some threat. In the 21st minute, a great free kick by Windass was well defended, and nodded out for a corner. From the corner, Morelos was free at the back post and met the ball with a header. It was a poor effort though, and it went wide.
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Hibs created a couple of great chances around the 25th minute. First, Hanlon found himself through on the left, and his powerful shot was saved by Foderingham. Not long after that, Boyle got past John on the right and saw his effort also well saved. in retrospect, those were to prove huge moments in the match.
For most of the half, Rangers seemed to struggle. Nothing would stick up front, passing was poor, and Hibs seemed to be winning most of the second balls. However, the game turned just before half-time due to two moments of brilliance from Windass and Morelos.
The Windass goal came on the 42nd minute. He had just had a wild shot from outside the box moments before. It was a rare foray up front for Rangers, but showed he was at least capable of getting into space. The goal came from some good pressing by Candeias. He forced an error which meant the ball dropped to Holt. His excellent touch found Windass, who took one touch himself and drove an accurate left-footed shot into the far bottom corner from around 20 yards. It was against the run of play, but yet another example of the confidence and ability of Windass of late.
Then, in first-half injury time, Rangers took the lead. The nature of the goal almost epitomised the surprise at doing so. Hibs lost possession from a throw-in due to good pressing by Alves. A few quick passes saw Barjonas get the ball to Morelos on the angle of the box. He turned Hanlon twice to get away from him, and somehow smashed the ball into the net. The keeper made a poor move to block a cut-back, and was beaten at his near post. On the TV coverage, you actually hear Jason Holt celebrating the goal before the fans, such was the surprise at the ball going in.
Rangers hadn’t played well first half but went in ahead. The hope was that they’d be nowhere near as poor in the second and kick on from there.
Hibs created an early chance through Boyle, who put in a great cross which Murray couldn’t quite meet. Minutes later, Morelos missed an equally good cross with a header which went away from goal instead of hitting the target.
Hibs brought on Brandon Barker, and his impact was clear. He hit both posts and put a shot just over the bar in his time on the park. The first was a good run, and his shot after cutting in was just too wide. The second effort brought out an excellent save from Foderingham at his near post, tipping it on to the upright.
With so many crosses coming in, Rangers decided to get another centre-half on the park. Bates replaced Barjonas, and done well clearing chances and winning headers. He was involved in the biggest moment of luck Rangers had in the game, though.
A cross from the left was glanced on and Bates looked to control the ball and clear. His lean towards the ball wasn’t enough, and he clearly controlled it with his arm rather than chest. The referee didn’t have a great angle, and somehow the assistant missed it. Given the amount of decisions that went the way of Hibs in the first fixture between these sides, there was a certain amount of balance. However, Rangers know that they were lucky not to concede the penalty.
The game was following a particular pattern by this point. Hibs were getting space to put in crosses, but Rangers were dealing with them well. There were no real chances being created, and the men in blue saw out the game to take the points.
It was a match which those who watched knew that Rangers were fortunate to win. There was a real spirit and hard work displayed by their players. Despite no real good performances going forward, the players didn’t let their heads go down and kept fighting for each other.
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