Rangers remain a single point ahead of Hearts at the top of the Premiership after a 1-1 draw at Ibrox saw the Jambos score a late equaliser following an Allan McGregor mistake in the 90th minute.
The Light Blues made one change from the win over Hibs at Ibrox before the international break as captain James Tavernier returned to the starting XI in place of Nathan Patterson – the Scotland international dropping to the bench.
It was Rangers who made all the early moves, moving the ball around well and making the Hearts defence move all over the pitch as the Gers looked to force gaps, Scott Wright forcing the first save of the afternoon from Craig Gordon.
Alfredo Morelos almost scored the opener 13 minutes in, Scott Wright robbing the ball from Hearts after a poor pass out by ex-Ibrox kid Craig Halkett, feeding Aribo who in turn slipped the ball into Morelos but the Colombian pulled his effort just wide of the far post.
El Bufalo had another chance to break the deadlock, Barisic picking Morelos out eight yards or so from goal but the Hearts defenders put enough pressure on him to make the Rangers star fluff his lines and mishit his shot.
Rangers seemed to be too eager to score the perfect goal, and too often the Gers would take one too many touches or try one pass too much as they tried to walk the ball into the net, allowing Hearts to stay in the game.
With 30 minutes gone Rangers must have thought they’d opened the scoring only for Craig Gordon to twice deny the Light Blues from a corner, scrambling the ball clear and somehow avoiding conceding despite Leon Balogun’s best attempt at forcing the ball over the line and into the back of the net.
Joe Aribo was lucky to escape with a booking, going in high after a poor first touch saw the ball get away from him and the Nigerian could have had few complaints had he been shown a red card.
Five minutes before the break, the goal Rangers’ dominance deserved finally came when John Lundstram curled home a stunning effort from distance to lift the roof off Ibrox.
The move all started with a long diagonal from Goldson out to Hagi on the right, the Romanian firing the ball into the area for Wright to lay Lundstram off and the Rangers number 4 unleashed an unstoppable effort which left Craig Gordon clutching at thin air.
As the teams went off at the break, there was a ringing endorsement of the opening 45 minutes’ performance with Rangers putting in easily their best showing of the season up to this point.
HALF-TIME: Rangers 1-0 Hearts
A perfect hit from John Lundstram is the difference at the interval. pic.twitter.com/KD4Fp9ewm9
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) October 16, 2021
Hearts started the second 45 looking much more adventurous, immediately putting Leon Balogun under pressure and forcing the Gers defender into giving away a freekick and earning a booking for a challenge of Boyce – meaning both Rangers central defenders had been shown the yellow card.
The visitors’ pressure didn’t last too long, Rangers quickly taking control of the game as it settled into a similar pattern as the first half with the Light Blues in control and looking comfortable.
As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Hearts suddenly had a flurry of chances, Barrie McKay at the middle of it all and forcing a couple of saves from Allan McGregor and suddenly making the game a bit nervy.
With Gerrard set to make a double change, Rangers had the chance to put the game to bed, Morelos finding space in the area but the Colombian again misfired and scuffed his shot wide.
The first changes of the game for Rangers came immediately afterwards, Steven Davis and Kemar Roofe coming into the fray to replace Joe Aribo and Ianis Hagi to help the Light Blues see the game out and end Hearts’ unbeaten record.
Roofe almost made a quick impact, coming very close to making it 2-0 only for Gordon to get a slight touch on his effort and direct it onto the post as the Jamaica international thought he had scored.
Morelos’ poor form in front of goal continued in the final minutes, Roofe finding Buff in the area but somehow he could only knock it wide from a few yards out with the goal at his mercy.
There was plenty of late drama when Bacuna and Kingsley clashed on the touchline before Robbie Neilson went all Rocky Balboa and took his coat off and started offering square-gos – earning himself a red card for his troubles.
It wasn’t over then though, McGregor failing to deal with a corner and handing Craig Halkett a free header at the back post which the Hearts man gleefully nodded home and grabbed a share of the spoils against his old club.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Lundstram, Kamara, Aribo, Hagi, Morelos, Wright
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Patterson, Davis, Bacuna, Roofe, Fashion Jr.
Hearts: Gordon, Smith, Souttar, Halkett, Kingsley, Cochrane, Baningime, Devlin, Woodburn, McKay, Boyce
Subs: Stewart, Haring, Mackay-Steven, Moore, Halliday, Gnanduillet, Ginnelly