Here, against the side that knocked them out of the CIS Cup semi-final in a shoot-out just two weeks ago, a spot kick in either half from Shota Arveladze and then comeback man Steven Thompson helped the Light Blues on their way to a hard-fought victory.

A thumping Michael Mols drive sandwiched between the two spot kicks helped put an extra sheen on the scoreline that saw Rangers close the gap between first and second in the table to 10 points ahead of Celtic’s game with Partick Thistle tomorrow.

As expected, Thompson had ended a five-month spell on the sidelines with a place on the bench alongside Stephen Hughes, while Mikel Arteta and Henning Berg both returned to the starting line-up.

With Michael Ball suspended and Paolo Vanoli also absent – presumed injured – Mo Ross deputised at left-back with Fernando Ricksen returning to his favoured role at right-back.

Despite all these changes, Rangers started the match in commanding style, with Arveladze cottoning onto Christian Nerlinger’s pass in the first minute but then scooping his attempt high over the crossbar.

If that early attempt from the Georgian was disappointing then he made amends just seven minutes later when Rangers went in front.

In a game littered with misplaced passes and wayward shots, it seemed just that the opening goal should come from the sweetest move of the match.

Emerson and Nuno Capucho had combined well to release Arteta and when he in turn tried to set Arveladze in on goal the former Ajax forward was tripped by Matt Doumbe.

After shrugging aside the eager Arteta as easily as he had side-stepped the clumsy intentions of Doumbe, Arveladze calmly struck the spot kick to the right of the diving Daniel Andersson to open the scoring.

It was the start Alex McLeish had been hoping for but unfortunately the rest of a drab match failed to live up to that early promise.

With Rangers retreating to a defensive 4-5-1 formation with Arveladze withdrawn wide on the left and Ronald de Boer left to work a lonely shift up front, it was perhaps unsurprising that chances were at a premium throughout the rest of the game.

What precious few opportunities there were seemed to fall more often than not to the hapless Capucho who was guilty of wastefulness on at least three occasions.

With half on the hour on the clock he headed an Arteta free kick wide – he had scored from a similar scenario at Rugby Park earlier in the season – and compounded the error early in the second half when he was sent through on goal by Arveladze only to slice his effort well wide.

To complete an unwanted personal hat-trick, the Portuguese frontman headed wide again following a pinpoint delivery from Fernando Ricksen.

Uo until then Hibs had been a poor shadow of the side that had punctured Gers’ CIS ambitions earlier in the month but with the Light Blues squandering a batch of chances Bobby Williamson’s men were still hanging on by their fingernails.

The match, however, was to turn on a five-minute spell where one chance was missed and another clinically taken.

Alan Reid was to be the sinner for the visitors when he sliced wide of target just after the hour mark and five minutes later the damage was doubled when Rangers went further in front.

Michael Mols had scarcely been on the pitch for five minutes when he latched onto Ricksen’s through ball, took one touch to control it and another to send it flying past Andersson.

It was the Dutchman’s first league goal since November 1 and perhaps unsurprisingly he celebrated accordingly.

With the victory sewn up, Thompson and Hughes were both given a run-out, with the former Dundee United man rampaging eagerly into action like King Kong storming around New York.

His energetic re-introduction to top team action was capped with a goal when Rangers were awarded another penalty when Roland Edge downed Ricksen in the box.

Thompson was first to grab the ball and, although Andersson got a hand to it, there was sufficient power in the strike to trickle over the goal line and conclude the scoring.

RANGERS (4-4-2): 1 Klos; 2 Ricksen, 5 F de Boer, 25 Berg, 21 Ross; 20 Capucho, 4 Emerson, 23 Arteta (Hughes 81), 8 Nerlinger; 14 R de Boer (Mols 60), 7 Arveladze (Thompson 68)

Subs not used: McGregor, Hutton

Booked: F de Boer (34), Nerlinger (77)

HIBS (4-4-2): 13 Andersson; 15 Whittaker, 14 Doumbe, 26 Caldwell, 3 Edge; 23 Orman (Riordan 73), 19 Thompson, 16 Wiss (Dobbie 60), 22 Reid; 18 Brown, 9 O’Connor (McManus 77)

Subs not used: Brown, Baillie

Booked: Reid (58), Doumbe (83)

Man of the Match: Frank de Boer

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