RANGERS fell agonisingly short against Hibernian as the Edinburgh men came from behind to grab all three points at Ibrox in a five goal thriller.
The Light Blues had looked in control after an action packed opening to the game led to Alfredo Morelos starting the scoring within three minutes. The Colombian netting his third in four days.
But Hibs had different ideas and in a game changing minute Kenny Miller hit the post and then the visitors equalised at the other end through Simon Murray.
Rangers lost Ryan Jack eight minutes before the break when he was shown red following a clash between both sets of players in the centre of the pitch. Almost immediately Hibs were ahead, James Tavernier turning the ball over the Gers line.
Vykintas Slivka put his side 3-1 up just after the hour mark and Rangers gave themselves a life line nine minutes from time when Tavernier headed home but it wasn’t to be enough for Pedro Caixinha’s men.
It had all started so well for the home side. Amid a thunderous Ibrox atmosphere Rangers launched themselves ahead just moments into the match. A Dylan McGeouch challenge sent Kenny Miller tumbling on the corner of the box and Daniel Candeias stepped up to whip the resulting free-kick in from the left. It evaded the Hibs backline to land on the head of a leaping Morelos at the far post. One nod and the Gers were in control.
In fact the home side could have doubled their lead a minute later when goalkeeper Ofir Marciano passed straight to Miller. The former Hibernian man took a few steps forward before he elected to chip the Israeli. The ball fell just a fraction outside the post.
The frantic nature of the opening 10 minutes didn’t let up though. On six minutes James Tavernier and Anthony Stokes squared up to each other following a hands on approach by the former Celtic forward. Stokes hauled Tavernier to the floor after throwing his arms around the full-back’s neck as they battled down the Rangers right. Both received yellow cards for their actions.
It took just seconds to change the game in a significant turn on 20 minutes. Rangers were denied by the base of the post to stop them going two up before Hibs raced up the other end to level things. Josh Windass had got to the by-line to slide a ball along the paint for Miller at the near post and it took the woodwork to deny him as he side footed from close range.
Rangers then switched off at the back to allow Simon Murray to meander in from the left flank and work his way into a shooting position. From the edge of the box the summer arrival from Dundee United took aim and slid the ball underneath the diving Wes Foderingham. It gave the striker his 10th goal of the season and pulled the Edinburgh side level.
A melee on 36 minutes lead to Jack being dismissed by referee John Beaton. It came from a coming together between Graham Dorrans and Slivka before players from both sides jumped in. Jack pulled McGeouch back as the two sides crowded together in the centre of the park before seemingly going head to head with Stokes and was shown the red for his actions.
Moments later a 10 man Rangers conceded in haphazard fashion with Tavernier eventually turning the ball over the line. Goalscorer Murray got himself to the by-line before cutting back into the danger area. No one cleared, the ball came off the Rangers right-back and trickled its way over the line. Foderingham nearly managed to claw it back but it snuck over.
Hibs could have cushioned their lead three minutes before the break when John McGinn took aim from the edge of the box. Foderingham did superbly to get down and palm his shot around the post.
Caixinha elected to remove Lee Hodson and Candeias at half-time as he shuffled his depleted pack into a 3-4-2. Danny Wilson came on to give the Gers three centre-halves while Tavernier and Miller moved into the middle and Eduardo Herrera took up a role alongside Morelos.
Murray started the second period causing the Gers the same problems as the first. He let fly from 30 yards five minutes in and the ball whistled past Foderingham’s far post.
With a man down Rangers were struggling to create a real opening. Morelos went close just after the hour mark when the ball bounced up into his path a few yards out. He was quick to react but put his effort the wrong side of the upright.
Two minutes later Hibs had three and it looked unlikely Caixinha’s team would be able to find a way back into the game. Lewis Stevenson spied Slivka in space on the edge of the area and launched a long throw at him from the left. The Lithuanian took it on the half volley as he span on his heels to thunder the ball past Foderingham with some pace.
The Rangers number one was forced into more evasive action on 76 minutes when McGinn whipped a corner onto the head of Paul Hanlon. The centre-half was the only one who seemed to rise in the Gers area and he cushioned the ball towards goal. Foderingham had to tip it over the bar as the ball threatened to tuck under the frame.
When it looked like Rangers were out of it, having barely had a sniff since half-time, Tavernier pulled one back for the Light Blues. Wilson delivered a deep cross across the box and the defender turned right-winger for the second period jumped to curl a header into the top corner.
Cries of “Bruno” rang around Ibrox two minutes from time when Carlos Pena was tugged back five yards outside the box. The Portuguese international stepped up with the crowd praying for a repeat of his midweek set-piece but Alves curled the ball just over Marciano’s bar. It was the Gers last chance of the game.
RANGERS: Foderingham; Tavernier, Cardoso, Alves, Hodson (Wilson 45’) Candeias (Herrera 45’), Jack, Dorrans, Windass; Morelos (Pena 65’), Miller.
SUBS: Alnwick, Wilson, Rossiter, Kranjcar, Holt.
Goals: Morelos 3’ Tavernier 81’
Yellows: Tavernier 7’ Candeias 32’ Dorrans 37’ Morelos 45’ Cardoso 74’
Reds: Jack 37’
HIBERNIAN: Marciano, Whittaker, Hanlon, McGinn, Slivka (Gray 89’), McGeouch, S Murray (Swanson 81), Stevenson, McGregor, Ambrose, Stokes.
SUBS: Laidlaw, Fontaine, Matulevicius, Shaw, F Murray.
Goals: S Murray 20’ Tavernier OG 39’ Slivka 64’
Yellows: Stokes 7’ McGeouch 36’ McGregor 87’