Rangers have moved three points closer to 55 with a comfortable win over Dundee United at Ibrox as the Light Blues scored four without reply against the Tannadice side.
After Thursday’s thrilling 4-3 win over Royal Antwerp in the Europa League in Belgium, Gerrard made four changes to the starting XI for the Ibrox clash with teenage defender Leon King named among the substitutes. [Rangers TV]
Injuries to James Tavernier and Kemar Roofe forced their absence from the squad, Leon Balogun and Ryan Kent coming in to replace them, while Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield made way for Ianis Hagi and Ryan Jack to return to the side.
Arabs boss Mickey Mellon made two changes to his side from the 3-0 win over Livingston last weekend; Ian Harkes and Nicky Clark being drafted into the Dundee United starting line-up in place of Adrian Sporle and the suspended Peter Pawlett.
The Gers almost found an early opening, Joe Aribo’s enticing cross evading everyone as it ran across the six-yard box with it only needing a touch to divert it at goal with Siegrist left flat-footed.
Allan McGregor came to the rescue for the hosts after nine minutes, making a vital stop as United got the break of the ball to allowe Shankland and Appere to link up – taking Helander out the play completely in the process.
With Shankland bearing down on goal, he was met by the on-rushing McGregor who smothered the Scotland striker’s effort and deny him what looked like a certain goal.
The visitors made it clear they weren’t in Glasgow’s south-side to make friends, a series of crunching early challenges leaving several Gers players sprawled on the turf and forcing referee Nick Walsh into action.
There was another wake-up call for the Gers’ defence when Shankland, Clark and Appere linked well to create an opportunity but McGregor was out quickly to avert the danger and clear the ball before Appere could shoot.
Gerrard’s side were making heavy work of taking control of the game and the visitors were allowed to look comfortable defensively, giving them the chance to push men forward.
When Rangers did click, United could do little to stop them and it took a fantastic save from Siegrist to deny Aribo what would have been a fantastic opening goal with 20 minutes on the clock.
The Nigerian found space to drive into from the left, setting himself to shoot on his right foot but Siegrist managed to get a palm to push it wide as the ball looked to curl into the bottom corner.
After losing Tavernier and Roofe in midweek, there was another injury blow for the Gers when Ryan Jack made his way off after 26 minutes, Glen Kamara replacing the Scotland international in midfield.
McGregor came to his side’s rescue for a third time in the opening 30 minutes, reacting well to punch away a strike from distance as Dundee United looked to take advantage of a lacklustre Gers performance and grab the lead.
However, passing up so many chances would come back and haunt them with ten minutes until the break as Ianis Hagi finally breathed some life into Rangers and scored the opener.
Aribo done all the hard work to create the chance and it was the Nigerian’s shot which Hagi got a touch on to divert past Siegrist and give the Gers the lead.
Minutes later it was 2-0 as Ryan Kent doubled the lead, firing home with the aid of a deflection to completely change the complexion of the game and give the Light Blues a comfortable cushion going into the break.
After impressing so much in the opening 45, Aribo got his goal just three minutes into the second as Rangers killed he game off thanks to an absolute screamer.
Aribo picked the ball up on the left from a thrown in before driving inside and playing a give-and-go with Morelos and unleashing an unstoppable strike in off the far post.
The chances started coming a bit more freely for Rangers after taking such a comfortable lead, and Morelos had a couple of opportunities to add to the lead.
With the game already beyond doubt, Gerrard turned to his bench with Scott Arfield and Scott Wright being introduced with just over an hour played, Ianis Hagi and Steven Davis making way.
El Bufalo would finally get his goal and it came down much more to luck and hard work from the Colombian rather than technical ability.
After chasing down a long ball forward, Morelos continued to pressure Siegrist and the United keeper cannoned his clearance off Morelos and into the back of his net.
Surprisingly, it was Morelos’ first league goal at Ibrox since August and hopefully it can spark him into a run of regular goals over the final weeks of the season.
Morelos would win a penalty a few minutes later, fouled by Fuchs, allowing Borna Barisic to step up and make it 5-0 but the Croaitian saw his spot-kick well saved.
Gerrard turned to his subs again in the wait for the penalty to be taken, Jack Simpson coming on for his debut in place of Helander and Jermain Defoe coming on for Morelos.
With the clock ticking down, there was yet another injury worry for Steven Gerrard and his staff after Leon Balogun took a hefty blow to the head, leaving the defender needing treatment before continuing.
United would grab a late consolation and deny Allan McGregor a 15th league clean sheet, Marc McNulty firing low beyond the keeper to double to tally of goals conceded at Ibrox in the Premiership this season.
Focus will now move to Thursday but, after a tough opening 30 minutes, Rangers should look back at this as an important result in getting 55 over the line.
Rangers: McGregor, Balogun, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Jack, Davis, Aribo, Hagi, Kent, Morelos.
Subs: McLaughlin, Simpson, Defoe, Itten, Kamara, Wright, Stewart, Arfield, King.
Dundee United: Siegrist, L.Smith, Reynolds, Clark, Edwards, Robson, Butcher, Harkes, Shankland, Appere, Fuchs.
Subs: Deniz, Sporle, Connolly, McNulty, Hoti, Chalmers, Bolton, Neilson, K.Smith.
Here’s how Rangers fans reacted after Gerrard’s starting XI was confirmed for this afternoon’s clash with Dundee United