Rangers manager Steven Gerrard saw Ianis Hagi rescue the Gers’ title hopes as the Romanian’s late goal sealed a 2-1 win over a dogged Hibs side at Ibrox.
The Gers boss made a surprise change to his side with George Edmundson replacing Niko Katic in defence while James Tavernier returned to the starting XI at the expense of Matt Polster and Ianis Hagi – making his first start for Rangers – taking over from Glen Kamara.
Morelos almost got Rangers off to a perfect start, racing on to a clever pass from Tavernier inside the Hibs left-back Lewis Stevenson, but the Colombian’s strike was deflected wide by Ofir Marciano.
The early pressure was telling as Rangers kept pushing forward, finding holes in the Hibs defence, without ever really testing Marciano.
Happy to have made my debut for the club today. Thanks for such a warm welcome @RangersFC fans 💙 Let’s keep working and improving together as a team. On to Wednesday! #RangersFC #Faith pic.twitter.com/0VMdjfgfUS
— Ianis Hagi (@IanisHagi10) February 1, 2020
Allan McGregor was called into action for the first time of the night with 12 minutes played after great work from Stephane Omeonga and Scott Allan released Joe Newell but the angle was too tight and McGregor saved at the cost of a corner.
Deadline day signing Hagi started to get a lot more involved in the game as he showed quite why he’s so highly-rated with flashes of skill that left Hibs players chasing shadows.
With half-time approaching, Rangers started to go up through the gears but it was the visitors who took the lead ten minutes before the break.
McGregor came to claim a free-kick from Allan before misjudging it completely, allowing Paul Hanlon to fire home and silence Ibrox.
That sparked Rangers into life and there was a huge penalty shout when Ryan Kent was brought down by ex-Ger Steven Whittaker but Bobby Madden somehow never saw anything in it before Scott Arfield went close with a half volley.
As injury-time entered the final few seconds of the one additional minute, the Gers were back on level terms when Edmundson showed real composure to fire home his first goal for the club.
The defender got a second chance at goal after getting a header badly wrong and rifled the ball into the net in his second league start for the club.
Edmundson’s goal made a massive difference to the atmosphere within Ibrox – with the booing reserved for Madden as he made his way off at the break.
Rangers came out of the traps immediately after the restart and cut through Hibs with ease before Hagi’s volley went agonisingly wide of the post a minute into the second half.
The Gers looked like they had the bit between their teeth and started peppering Marciano’s goal with shots, forcing the Hibs keeper into several good saves to keep the score level.
The hour mark seemed to coincide with Rangers stepping up their hunt for a second goal and, after a spate of corners, the Gers were looking like it was only a matter of time before they had the lead for the first time.
Hibs started to resort to the dark arts as Morelos, Davis and Hagi all took sore ones as the game entered the final 20 minutes with the scoreline still level and Ibrox growing audibly anxious.
The pressure kept up on Hibs with Rangers having another succession of corners – taking the total between the restart and the 70th minute a remarkable 11 – but Gerrard’s side somehow couldn’t make their dominance pay as the season’s title ambitions hung in the balance.
Gerrard turned to his subs late on with Greg Stewart and Jordan Jones both being introduced to try give the Gers something different in attack as time ticked away and Hibs dropped deeper and deeper.
The goal everyone was waiting for finally came as the dominance paid off as Ianis Hagi immediately made himself a Rangers hero.
Another corner was only half-cleared, falling to the Romanian wonderkid and he fired low across goal to send Ibrox into raptures with six minutes left on the clock.
The goal would be Hagi’s last contribution of a really impressive first start as he was replaced by Glen Kamara to a brilliant ovation as the Gers saw out a hard-fought win – although there was late drama as Morelos went within inches of making it 3-1 in injury-time.
Rangers: McGregor; Tavernier, Edmundson, Goldson, Barisic; Davis, Aribo (Stewart 70′), Arfield; Hagi Kamara (88′), Kent (Jones 81′), Morelos
Subs not used: Foderingham, Polster, Katic, Barker.