HIBERNIAN were the victors following a dramatic and topsy-turvy match at Ibrox Stadium this afternoon.
After taking the lead late in the first half through John McGinn, Rangers fought back strongly and leveled through a wonderful Sean Goss free-kick with 18 minutes left. Gers looked well-set to go on and turn the game around, but a late Jamie MacLaren penalty sealed all three points for the visitors.
In front of yet another sold-out Ibrox crowd and a deafening atmosphere, Rangers came close to a perfect start inside the first minute. Some dithering by Ryan Porteous on the ball allowed Jamie Murphy to advance on goal, only for the defender to recover sufficiently to clear the ball away.
It was frantic stuff, and Gers then had another decent opportunity to go in front shortly afterwards. After Declan John cleared a ball wide to Daniel Candeias, the attacker raced up the right win on the counter, and found Josh Windass on the edge of the area. His touch was heavy, however, and before he could get a shot away, the ball had run through into the arms of Ofir Marciano.
At the other end, having come onto the park after only six minutes for the injured Brandon Barker, Jamie MacLaren had a great chance to put Hibs ahead at the back post, but the ball skipped up off his foot and into the arms of Wes Fodringham.
Then, in a near carbon-copy move, Florian Kamberi crossed to the back post for MacLaren, and this time he put the ball in the net only to be denied by the assistant referee’s flag.
The match was flowing from end to end, and Rangers were then presented with another gilt-edged chance.
More hesitation in the Hibs defence saw Windass win the ball and go one-on-one with Marciano, but the goalkeeper came out on top, clearing the ball as far as Murphy, and by the time he got the chance to shoot, Hibs had men back to clear the ball away.
A chance for Rangers, it seemed, would soon be followed by a chance for Hibs, and a weak Kamberi shot under no pressure after being set-up by Scott Allan, was easily held by Foderingham.
Alfredo Morelos then had his first real sight of goal in the match. A beautiful Windass ball over the top found the run of Daniel Candeias in the box. With his back to goal, he squared for Morelos who tried to drag the ball wide of Porteous for a shot, but the Hibs man was there to block the Colombian’s eventual effort.
With four minutes to go before half time, finally an opportunity was taken in the game, and unfortunately for the home side, it was Hibs who took the lead.
From midfield, John McGinn was allowed to drive forward 25-yards before rifling a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
It was a blow going into the interval, but within a minute of the restart, Candeias brought out a fine save from Marciano to show Gers had overcome their disappointment and were ready to go again.
From the left, a superb Jamie Murphy cross was met in the six-yard box by the head of the Portuguese, only for Marciano to acrobatically turn the ball over the top with his fingertips.
Windass then had another shot on goal, after having the ball laid-off by Morelos around 12-yards out, but this time his effort trundled wide of the left-hand post.
It was all Rangers, with Morelos heading wide another opportunity when Murphy stood the ball up to the back post, before the Colombian was denied by referee Willie Collum as he headed-in a James Tavernier free-kick, as Windass had bundled over Lewis Stevenson as the ball came in.
Jason Holt then brought a save out of Marciano from distance, before Windass made the goalkeeper work with a bouncing shot from just inside the area.
The goal was coming, and finally, the equaliser arrived with 18 minutes of the game to go thanks to a stunning Sean Goss free-kick.
Josh Windass was brought down around 25-yards from goal by Porteous, and with Goss afforded the opportunity to go for goal. His effort was wonderful, crashing off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net as Marciano scrambled to keep it out.
Ibrox was roaring, sensing, given how on-top the home side had been, that a winner was there to be had.
But that positive energy was deflated almost straight from the restart with Hibs awarded a penalty kick.
James Tavernier was penalised for a push on Scott Allan inside the area, with referee Collum immediately pointing to the spot. Jamie MacLaren took it, and while Foderingham got a touch on it, the shot was too powerful to keep out of the back of the net.
Rangers huffed and puffed in the closing minutes, but created little in the way of clear cut chances.
RANGERS: Foderingham, Tavernier, Martin, Bates, John, Holt (Cummings, 71), Goss, Candeias (Docherty, 71), Windass, Murphy, Morelos.
SUBS: Alnwick, Cardoso, Dodoo, Herrera, Hodson, Cummings, Docherty.
HIBERNIAN: Marciano, Bartley, McGinn, McGeouch, Stevenson, Boyle, Barker (MacLaren, 6 (Swanson, 90+1), Kamberi, Allan (Shaw, 78), Ambrose, Porteous.
SUBS: Bell, Swanson, Rherras, Shaw, Murray, Mackie.