Rangers cruised to a comfortable win over St Mirren in the final Scottish Premiership clash ahead of the split and a hat-trick from Kemar Roofe and Joe Aribo’s stunning strike sealed the win for the much-changed Light Blues.
With five changes from the midweek defeat by Braga, van Bronckhorst made clear that his side’s priority was Thursday’s return leg v Braga.
Just two minutes in, Rangers were in the lead, Kent picking out Roofe and the Jamaican international had all the time in the world to head beyond the outstretched Dean Lyness.
It was some excellent play by the Light Blues and was the perfect start for the visitors and a really good header by Roofe to pick his spot in the far corner.
After the frantic opening few minutes, the game calmed down a little with Stephen Robinson’s side showing plenty of attacking intent – although the Rangers defence looked comfortable in the early stages.
Despite having the lead, the Light Blues were struggling to really create anything of note and put the St Mirren defence under any serious pressure, Connor Goldson firing over from distance the Gers’ only other real chance at goal in the opening 20 minutes of the game.
St Mirren were temporarily reduced to ten men after 20 minutes when Charles Dunne had to go off to get a wound closed after the defender was on the wrong end of an elbow from teammate Alex Gogic while defending a corner.
Rangers had their own injury concerns, Lundstram seeming to have tweaked his groin and looking in a bit of discomfort, although the Scouser signalled to the bench he was fine.
However, a few minutes later the midfielder would find himself on the ground and needing replaced, Northern Ireland veteran Steven Davis replacing him in the middle of the park for the Ibrox side.
Neither side seemed in any hurry to make anything happen as the minutes ticked down to the break, Rangers moving the ball around while St Mirren were happy to sit with 10 or 11 men in behind it.
Rangers were comfortable without ever being particularly convincing and that must surely have caused some concern in the away dugout despite being ahead on the scoreboard.
In the dying minutes of the opening 45, there were even more concerns for Rangers, Fil Helander limping off with support from the Gers’ medical staff as Leon King came on to replace him and make his fifth first-team appearance.
As injury-time came to an end Rangers should have been 2-0 up, Ramsey somehow rattling the bar from close range before Kemar Roofe spared his blushes and did double the lead.
Tavernier’s cross was pin-point and Roofe again showed excellent technique to head his second of the afternoon with the last touch of the first half.
Rangers made a double switch at the break, bringing James Sands and Scott Wright on for Aaron Ramsey and Ryan Kent, with one eye clearly on Thursday’s game against Braga.
With two goals to his name already, Roofe made it 3-0 and sealed his first Rangers hat-trick when he fired home a loose ball in the box.
Rangers looked like a much different side after the break, pushing forward in groups and looking threatening every time they attacked.
The Light Blues looked hungrier than they have in a long time and it was a real positive heading into some huge games.
The final Rangers change of the afternoon came just after the hour mark, Kemar Roofe coming off to be replaced by Amad Diallo.
Scott Wright had a chance to make it 4-0, Barisic’s cross finding the winger unmarked in the area but he fired his effort high over the bar.
The Light Blues were very much in control and continued to create chances to add to their lead and rack up a big scoreline, being denied a couple of times by Lyness.
Amad was next to have his chance to score, wasting a fantastic chance that really should have been buried in the back of the net with 20 minutes to go.
Just as the game was threatening to peter out, Joe Aribo made it 4-0 and it was an absolute stunner.
The Nigerian took his time to turn and then just placed the ball in the top corner with absolute ease.
The confidence was flowing through the Rangers team now and it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest some of the ‘fringe’ players have given van Bronckhorst something to think about.
With five minutes left, there was yet another injury worry for Rangers when Connor Goldson needed some treatment, coming back on looking no worse for wear.
Now, hopefully for more of the same from Rangers on Thursday night against Braga.
St Mirren: Lyness, Fraser, Shaughnessy, Dunne, Tait, Power, Gogic, Henderson, Ronan, Jones, Brophy.
Subs: Urminsky, Smyth, McCarthy, Erhahon, Gilmartin, Thomson, Gallagher, Greive, Main.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Lundstram, Aribo, Ramsey, Fashion Jr, Roofe, Kent.
Subs: McLaughlin, Diallo, Davis, Kamara, Sands, Wright, Balogun, Arfield, King.