RANGERS kicked off April with an excellent performance and victory against Heart of Midlothian at Ibrox Stadium this evening.
First half goals from Jermain Defoe and Connor Goldson was added to by Scott Arfield at the start of the second half in what was a very routine and comfortable evening for the Light Blues.
From the side which lined-up at Parkhead on Sunday, Steven Gerrard named four changes. Out went the suspended Alfredo Morelos and Andy Halliday along with Ross McCrorie and Daniel Candeias, with their places taken by Jermain Defoe, Jon Flanagan, Glen Kamara and Steven Davis.
Gers were still deployed in their 4-3-3 formation, but Scott Arfield and Ryan Kent behind Defoe were playing more narrow than perhaps supporters were accustomed to.
Gerrard’s men thought they had taken the lead with just two minutes played with Ryan Jack pressuring John Souttar on the edge of the 18-yard box and squeezing a ball through to Defoe, and while he finished superbly, the striker was adjudged to be offside.
Defoe then had another opportunity, being set up by a super Arfield flick, but this time Marcus Godinho got across to make a superb block.
James Tavernier was next to try his luck, this time from 25-yards out with Bobby Zlamal punching clear before the deadlock was broken on 16 minutes.
A super, threaded ball from Arfield found the run of Tavernier in the right channel of the box. Zlamal got a touch on his cutback, but it wasn’t enough to stop it falling to Jermain Defoe to crash a shot in off the roof of the bar from around 10-yards out for his sixth Rangers goal.
It was no more than the home team deserved for their high-tempo start to the match, and five minutes later, it got even better for Gerrard’s men.
A quick free-kick from Tavernier from just inside the Hearts’ half caught the visitors’ defence napping, and on the end of it, stooping low to head the ball home from around six-yards out, was Connor Goldson.
It was the centre-half’s first counter since netting again against Hearts at Tynecastle back in December, and again, it was in keeping with just how dominant the Light Blues were.
Indeed, it took 34 minutes for Hearts to register any real effort of note, with Allan McGregor making an excellent save to turn a Christophe Berra header over the bar.
Joe Worrall should have made it three right on half-time, heading a Tavernier free-kick over the bar, but within two minutes of the restart, the third goal did indeed arrive.
From the right, Tavernier’s first-time cross was quite outstanding to take out the Hearts defence and pick out Defoe on the six-yard line, only for Zlamal to make the most outstanding save to deny him from close range.
Following up with the rebound, however, was Scott Arfield to lash home and put the seal on the three points for the Gers.
Sub Ross McCrorie came close to number four with an effort from just outside the area which flashed over the bar before Defoe followed him over the target soon after following a surging run from full-back from Jon Flanagan.
Fellow replacement Eros Grezda then headed against the post, albeit with an effort he knew not much about as a Berra clearance on the end of a Tavernier free-kick dropped onto him.
The closing stages saw the tempo drop, but the three points were long secured by then as Gers, though Jamie Brandon smashed an effort against the post in injury time.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Flanagan; Kamara, Davis, Jack (McCrorie, 61), Arfield (Grezda, 68); Kent, Defoe (Lafferty, 78).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Katic, Candeias, Coulibaly.
HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN: Zlamal, Shaughnessy, Souttar, Haring, Berra, Boznic, Clare (Keena, 59), Djoum (Lee, 70), Wighton, Brandon, Godinho (Burns, 59)
SUBS NOT USED: Doyle, MacLean, Mulraney, Dikamona.
REFEREE: Mr Kevin Clancy