DESPITE another largely dominant performance at Easter Road, Hibernian held Rangers to a draw in the Scottish Premiership tonight.
The Light Blues were superb, particularly in the first half, but held only a Daniel Candeias goal going into the latter stages, with Florian Kamberi netting an equaliser with 13 minutes left.
From the side which was held by Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup on Sunday, out went Borna Barisic, with his place in the starting XI taken by Andy Halliday.
The opening minutes belonged almost exclusively to the visitors in terms of possession, and it was they who carved out the first opportunity of the game on seven eight minutes.
Lovely football involving Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos allowed the former to break down the right wing and cross superbly for Ryan Kent, who had come infield from his left-wing berth, but he couldn’t quite connect with the ball under pressure and the chance had gone.
Four minutes later, another Candeias cross this time looped over everyone in the area and dropped at the feet of Kent out left.
With Hibs claiming the ball had gone out of play, Kent kept playing and crossed for Scott Arfield to drive an effort goalwards from around 15 yards, but he was denied a certain goal by an excellent Mark Milligan block just shy of the line.
Morelos then robbed a napping Lewis Stevenson of the ball high up the park, but from a tight angle, he was denied a goal by the leg of goalkeeper Ofir Marciani.
Andy Halliday was next to try his luck, firing over the bar from just inside the area after being set up by Arfield, while Kent was next to be denied by Marciano after drifting into the area from out wide.
Another superb block, this time from Paul Hanlon, denied Arfield again after a rebounded Glen Kamara effort from a Marciano save fell into his path.
Just when it seemed the teams were going to go in level at the break, Gers struck the opening goal on the break three minutes before the referee’s whistle.
With Hibs pushed well forward, the Light Blues burst down the right, with Candeias crossing into a dangerous area. Hibs cleared, but only as far as Candeias who shifted the ball onto his left and curled a stunning effort into the top corner for 1-0.
It was thoroughly deserved for a super first half performance from Steven Gerrard’s side, and they began the second half well too.
Ryan Jack volleyed over after fine work from James Tavernier on the right, before out of nothing, Allan McGregor was called upon to make a super save.
Marc McNulty was released down the right and crossed for Daryl Horgan, but out came McGregor to deflect his decent effort back out wide, with McNulty following in but being denied pretty comfortably by McGregor at his near post.
It served as a warning to Gers that, for as much as they had dominated, Hibs were still well in the game.
An Andy Halliday free-kick wasn’t defended convincingly by Hibs with a clearance dropping at the feet of Morelos, but he was denied by Marciano, before Arfield managed to send him in for another chance, but the Colombian volleyed wide.
Then, on 77 minutes, Hibernian grabbed an equaliser against the run of play.
Catching Gers this time on the break, the ball dropped for McNulty at the back post, and he was able to square for the incoming Florian Kamberi to level up the match.
The visitors responded well, with Arfield poking wide of goal from a Kent cross soon after the restart, before the Canadian international was replaced by Jermain Defoe.
In injury time, with Defoe trying to break, he was hauled back by Darren McGregor, with the former Rangers man shown a second yellow card and subsequent red before in the 96th minute of time added-on, Andy Halliday clipped the top of the bar with a 25-yard free kick in a central area.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Halliday; Jack, Kamara, Arfield; Candeias, Morelos, Kent.
SUBS: Foderingham, Davis, Defoe, Coulibaly, Katic, McCrorie, Flanagan.
HIBERNIAN: Marciano, Gray, Hanlon, Milligan, Horgan (Bartley, 90), McNulty, Mallan, Stevenson, Kamberi, McGregor, Omeonga.
SUBS: Dabrowski, Bigirimana, Shaw, Murray, Mackie, Allan.
REFEREE: Steven McLean