RANGERS made it three wins on the bounce in the Scottish Premiership with another controlled and impressive performance, this time against Hearts at Tynecastle this afternoon.
First half goals from Jermain Defoe and Ryan Jack was added to by Nikola Katic at the start of the second half, and while Steven Maclean pulled one back for the Jambos, Steven Gerrard’s side were good value for their victory.
Boss Gerrard named an unchanged side from the one which defeated Motherwell at Fir Park in the club’s last outing a fortnight ago, while there were places on the bench for Glenn Middleton following his excellent recent form in the club’s reserve side, and also versatile American Matt Polster.
Tynecastle is famed for its excellent atmosphere, and today was no different, with both sets of fans making a tremendous noise as the teams emerged.
And in that, it was the visitors who created the first chance of the match with Daniel Candeias shooting a loose headed clearance from a Steven Davis corner just wide of the target from around 25-yards out.
Ryan Jack then had a curling effort go just wide of the target again from outside the area before on 15 minutes, the opening goal arrived courtesy of Jermain Defoe.
Starting the move in midfield was Jon Flanagan with an absolutely outstanding tackle on Craig Wighton, with the ball reaching Glen Kamara.
He quickly spun on it and played it perfectly between the two Hearts’ central defenders John Souttar and Christophe Berra, and into the path of Defoe.
He still had so much to do, but never was there any doubt of the end outcome as he planted the ball beyond Bobby Zlamal to hand Gers the lead.
It should have been 2-0 a few minutes later as again Gers turned the ball over high up the park, though Scott Arfield shot straight at the goalkeeper from just outside the area when he may have been better served playing the ball inside to Ryan Jack who had almost an open goal to aim at.
Hearts came back into the match the more the half progressed, with both Wighton and Uche Ikpeazu finding themselves with opportunities to net having worked themselves into decent positions but on 36 minutes, the second goal arrived for Rangers.
Again, it came from a turnover in possession, with Jack winning it from Arnaud Djoum right on halfway. Jack immediately played it for Candeias to drive forwards with, while Jack himself got on his bike and peeled away to the right of the box.
With traffic in front of him, Candeias picked Jack out superbly, and he was composed to finish beyond Zlamal to hand his side a deserved 2-0 lead with his fourth goal of the season.
Gers were comfortable in seeing the match out to half-time before, within three minutes of the restart, they made it 3-0.
James Tavernier took a quick corner, playing it short to Candeias, and he delivered a top-class ball to the back post for Nikola Katic to slide onto the end of to hand the visitors a huge cushion.
Allan McGregor was then called into action for the first time in the match, making an excellent save from a Jake Mulraney header while Zlamal also had to make a smart save from a Candeias header on the end of an Arfield cross.
Defoe should have made it four on the end of a great Connor Goldson pick-out, but he opted to try and square it for Arfield only to have that blocked by Berra, while Arfield then did get a chance, shooting over from the edge of the box following good work from Candeias and Jack on the right.
Hearts pulled one back on 74 minutes, with Jake Mulraney picking out Steven Maclean at the back post with an excellent ball from the left.
Sub Glenn Middleton had a decent chance for number four when Defoe put him through, though Zlamal did well to come out and close the angle on the youngster.
Matt Polster was then handed his debut on 86 minutes, replacing Steven Davis, and he played Middleton in down the right before he found Arfield on the six-yard line with another good ball, but Zlamal denied him with a top save.
So another comfortable win for Gers to make it three wins on the bounce as they look to finish the league campaign as strongly as possible.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan; Davis, Kamara, Jack; Candeias (Middleton 72), Arfield, Defoe (Lafferty, 83).
SUBS: Foderingham, Worrall, Halliday, McCrorie, Polster.
HEARTS: Zlamal, Smith (Dikamona, 83) Souttar, Berra, Bozanic, Lee (Cochrane, 66), Wighton (Maclean, 62), Djoum, Ikpeazu, Mulraney, Burns.
SUBS: Doyle, Shaughnessy, Edwards, Brandon.
REFEREE: Mr John Beaton
ATTENDANCE: 18212 (Inc. 3212 away)