The Turkish midfielder was the star of the show in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Aberdeen, scoring with his left foot, and he came up trumps today with an even better strike to send Rangers on their way.
It was an absolutely stunning volley in 27 minutes which Marco Ruittenbeek had no chance of stopping and the Ibrox legions roared their appreciation.
Tugay had not scored at all this season before the Dons game but that’s two in two games and, equally importantly, his performances have been equally impressive which bodes well for the forthcoming showdowns with Celtic.
Rangers took a long time to settle it with Michael Mols scoring the second two minutes from time but the Ibrox champions are now in second place two points above Hibs and trail Celtic by six, for 24 hours at least.
However, with every silver lining there is a cloud and Tony Vidmar became the latest injury casualty suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem which will eliminate him from action for the immediate future.
It is normally the case that when someone is missing you recognise his worth and that is undoubtedly the situation with Claudio Reyna, who came back into midfield after suspension.
The American captain is such a calm and effective player that he was the ideal foil for Tugay in the centre of the field as Rangers lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Tugay may have been a goal hero but Reyna was the top man.
To that end there was much more precision in Rangers’ play, although it took them some time to really get going and suffered a couple of worrying moments before imposing their authority on Dunfermline.
There were only four minutes played when former Ibrox star Barry Nicholson missed a glorious chance to take the lead.
Nicholson, playing in a more advanced role than normal, raced onto Michel Doesburg’s excellent through ball and found himself one on one with Stefan Klos.
Fortunately for Rangers, the German keeper was the winner in this contest as he smothered the ball as Nicholson tried to guide it past him.
Dunfermline nearly scored again in 21 minutes when Jason Dair played a one-two with Lee Bullen and shot just over the bar and the Ibrox fans were become a little bi restless.
Gradually the Ibrox men began to find their form and only the woodwork denied them taking the lead in 24 minutes. Kenny Miller’s cross from the left was excellent and Fernando Ricksen met it powerfully with his head but he effort smacked off the top of the crossbar.
Then in 27 minutes, man of the moment Tugay smashed a sensational right foot volley into the top right corner to ease the tension and give Rangers the lead.
The Turkish star has had quite a week, scoring the winner against Aberdeen and suffering verbal and physical abuse from the Dons players, and he was on fire again.
Arthur Numan’s cross was headed out by Scott Thomson only as far as Tugay who controlled the ball on his chest and then lashed a 27-yard shot which flew into the Pars net at a speed of 66-miles-per-hour.
Only the considerable talent of Marco Ruittenbeek prevented Dunfermline from going two behind in 33 minutes. Flo was fould just outside the box by Jason Dair, Tugay touched the freekick to Bert Konterman and the big man’s drive was brilliantly blocked by the Pars keeper.
There was more woe for Rangers, however, in 36 minutes when Tony Vidmar became the latest injury causualty when he suffered yet another hamstring problem, which means he is OUT of the Celtic double header.
The Australian tore his hamstring against Galatasaray in the Champions League and then against Hibs. Now he is sidelined again and it had caused more selection headaches for Dick Advocaat.
Advocaat opted to put on Michael Mols as Vidmar’s replacement, moving Numan back and Johnston into a midfield slot and Mols almost scored with his first touch.
The Dutchman beat Ruittenbeek with his shot but Thomson hooked it off the line, under pressure from Reyna who had followed in.
Then in 42 minutes the Fifers’ No1 made an excellent block from Reyna’s right foot shot as Rangers finished the first half really strongly.
Dunfermline had even more good fortune just 60 seconds after that when Johnston’s corner broke to Tugay at a tight angle on the right side of of the box and he drilled a right foot shot which smacked off the base of the left hand post.
Dunfermline made two switches at half-time to try and tighten things up, bringing on Steven Hampshire and Gary Mason but Rangers continued to dominate, although they could not make it pay.
Ruittenbeek proved to be an impassable barrier the last time the teams met and he made yet another excellent save in 56 minutes when he got down to his right to block Miller’s left foot strike.
Morroccan defender Yousef Rossi found Mols too touch a customer in 62 minutes and deservedly earned a yellow card for bringing him down. Then Ricksen was cautioned for a heavy challenged on Dunfermline’s third sub Marinus Dijkhuizen.
What should have been a straight forward exercise had a slog for Rangers and they came close to paying dearly for their inability to add to their lead in 79 minutes.
Mason was allowed to run unimpeded on goal and only the bravery of Klos, who saved at his feet, prevented an equaliser.
However, with two minutes remaining Mols made sure of the victory for Rangers to ease the unrest in the stadium. Miller provided the pass, splitting the Dunfermline defence and Mols ran on to clip the ball past Ruittenbeek.
It was a long, hard struggle for Rangers but they achieved their objective. Now Gers are second and only six points behind Celtic but they know they will have to play considerably better than this in the the ensuing Old Firm encounters.
RANGERS: Klos; Wilson, Konterman, Vidmar (Mols 40); Ricksen, Reyna, Tugay, Numan; Johnston, Flo, Miller (Hughes 88). Subs not used – Christiansen (GK), Malcolm, Carson.
Bookings: Vidmar (7), Ricksen (68).
DUNFERMLINE: Ruittenbeek; Doesburg, Skerla, Rossi, Dair; Nicholson, Skinner (Hampshire 45), Scott Y. Thomson, Petrie (Mason 45); Bullen (Dijkhuizen 65), Crawford. Subs not used – Scott Thomson (GK), Hampshire, Mason, Boyle, Dijkhuizen.
Bookings: Thomson (39), Rossi (62)
Ref: Alan Freeland.
Man of the match: Cladio Reyna
Moment of the match: Tugay’s sensational strike was so priceless for Rangers.