RANGERS earned a deserved three points against a stubborn Hearts side at Ibrox Stadium this afternoon.
After a tense first half, goals from Jason Cummings and Daniel Candeias had Gers clear before Christophe Berra pulled one back for Craig Levein’s men against the run of play.
Given the result against Celtic last week, Ibrox was understandably edgy as the teams emerged, but the mood of the crowd was lifted by a bright start from the home side.
Within the opening minute, good work from James Tavernier and Daniel Candeias ended with the latter finding Josh Windass for a shot which was blocked by a desperate tackle from the men in maroon.
That was followed by another block stopping a Tavernier cross as he looked to find the unmarked Jason Cummings in the six-yard box before from a well-worked corner routine, Candeias crossed for Ross McCrorie to fire-over on the half-volley.
Then, Cummings and Josh Windass combined for the first time – Windass playing in Cummings on the angle before he shot straight at Jon McLaughlin in the visiting goal, and then again from a corner, Graham Dorrans chipped into the six-yard box where the ball hit Russell Martin on the top of the head and jumped over the bar.
The first half rather petered out from there, but the second half began with Gers once again on the front foot – so much so, they took the lead within two minutes of the restart.
A sweeping move began with Windass spraying the ball out to the left for Jamie Murphy. From there, he crossed for Candeias at the front post, and with Hearts players putting him under pressure, he spun and played it to the incoming Cummings.
Inside the six yard box, he simply couldn’t miss as Ibrox breathed a massive sigh of relief at the deadlock being broken.
The goal settled Gers down significantly, and on a few occasions in the next 10 minutes or so, they were but a final pass away from doubling their lead.
It was only a matter of time before Rangers doubled their lead given how they were playing – constantly pressing Hearts and forcing them into errors – and their reward came on the 65th minute through Daniel Candeias.
From the left, Jamie Murphy delivered a quite wonderful ball into the middle and with a diving header, the Portuguese winger connected perfectly with the ball to send it into the back of the net.
It seemed Gers were home and hosed – and more goals could potentially follow – but with pretty much their first attack of the half, Hearts pulled a goal back.
A free-kick from Don Cowie deep on the left wasn’t dealt with by the home defence with Christophe Berra heading into the back of the net to give the visitors hope.
And that hope brought about a renewed vigour in Hearts’ performance – indeed, they were a posts’ width away from an equaliser with Kyle Lafferty curling a wonderful effort goalwards.
At the other end, Gers should have killed the game when Windass opted to go for goal from distance despite having an unmarked Cummings to his left in a far-superior position, while on the counter, Jason Holt somehow beat McLaughlin in the air to release substitute Alfredo Morelos – although John Souttar got back to deny the Colombian on the line from an angle.
RANGERS: Alnwick; Tavernier, Martin, McCrorie, John; Dorrans, Holt; Candeias (O’Halloran, 90), Windass, (Halliday 76), Murphy; Cummings (Morelos, 86).
SUBS NOT USED: Kelly, Hodson, Goss, Docherty.
HEARTS: McLaughlin, Smith, Souttar, Hughes (Henderson, 81), Berra, Amankwaa (Adao 55), Lafferty, Naismith, Cowie, Randall, Godinho (Moore, 60).
SUBS NOT USED: Hamilton, McDonald, Cochrane, Hamilton.
REFEREE: Craig Thomson
ATTENDANDCE: 47, 272.