RANGERS blasted their way into the Betfred Cup quarter-finals by demolishing Dunfermline with a sensational performance at Ibrox this evening.
Alfredo Morelos grabbed a double – his first two for the club, while Bruno Alves and Daniel Candeias also opened their accounts with a pair of stunning free-kicks. Kenny Miller, typically, and James Tavernier were also on the scoresheet.
The Light Blues were dealt a blow in the warm-up, with skipper Lee Wallace, who was set to make his 250th appearance in Light Blue, picking up a knock and having to be replaced by Lee Hodson.
But they soon overcame that disappointment with Miller putting the Light Blues ahead inside five minutes.
Having begun the game at a lightning pace, Dunfermline were at sixes and sevens at the back and coughed up possession to Alfredo Morelos out on the left wing. He cut the ball into the area for Graham Dorrans, with his shot bringing out a terrific save from goalkeeper Sean Murdoch.
The rebound, however, fell only to Miller six-yards from goal, and he lashed a thundering drive into the roof of the net for his first competitive goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, it almost got even better for Miller as he tapped home a Lee Hodson cross at the back post only to see the assistant referee’s flag deny him, before James Tavernier then tried his luck from 20-yards, flashing a shot wide of Murdoch’s left-hand post.
The pace Rangers were playing at and the football they were playing was just sensational, but their second goal on the 10-minute mark came from a moment of individual brilliance from Bruno Alves.
Morelos was brought down on the edge of the box, with Alves lining up the shot. Now, most would have expected him to go for power given his history of free-kick taking, but instead, he curled a wonderful effort into the top-left corner of the goal.
Ibrox went ballistic with delight, and Alves too revelled in the moment, sprinting to embrace assistant gaffer Helder Baptista on the touchline with his teammates soon joining him.
It was incredible stuff, but at the other end, Dunfermline fired a warning that they weren’t here simply to make up the numbers with Declan McManus hitting a 25-yard free-kick off the bar.
That was as good as it was to get for the Pars in the first half, however, with Gers soon resuming their assault on Murdoch’s goal.
After Hodson shot over the bar from inside the six-yard box, albeit under pressure, Alfredo Morelos grabbed his first goal for Pedro Caixinha’s side.
A quick break from the Gers saw Daniel Candeias haring down the right wing and finding Kenny Miller inside the area. He was closed down but spotted Morelos arriving to his left, and picked him out perfectly with the Columbian doing the rest, lashing the ball beyond Murdoch at his front post.
He too indulged in a rather wild celebration, jumping in with the fans in the Broomloan Front to, thus earning him a yellow card from referee Don Robertson which was greeted with loud boos around the stadium.
3-0 after 23 minutes soon became 4-0 on 27 minutes, thanks to James Tavernier’s first goal in almost a year.
After some more quick and exciting build-up play, Miller snuck a ball through the Dunfermline defence for the on-rushing Tavernier and he showed no signs of rustiness in front of goal, powerfully and confidently finishing past Murdoch.
Naturally, the pace was always going to drop as half-time approached, but Rangers reignited at the start of the second half with a plethora of opportunities in the opening minutes.
Jean Yves Mvoto’s sliding clearance went only as far as Morelos before the centre-half recovered to smuggle the ball away for a throw-in.
Bruno Alves then had another free-kick effort, although this the sting was taken out of it by the wall before he was denied a third effort when Kenny Miller was fouled 25-yards out as he was substituted for Danny Wilson, but not before enjoying a rapturous response and chants of “Bruno, Bruno!” from the Ibrox faithful.
But, not sooner had they taken their seats they were on their feet again, this time to acclaim another wonderful free-kick, this time from Daniel Candeias.
From a pretty central position, he curled the ball round the left edge of the wall and into the top corner, again beyond the reach of Murdoch.
Gers weren’t done there, with Graham Dorrans surging forward through the middle, passing to Kranjcar who then found Morelos, although Murdoch was there to deny him.
He couldn’t however stop the Columbian grabbing his second of the game with 15 minutes left to play.
The goalkeeper saved an initial effort from Josh Windass, but he could push it only as far as Morelos to finish from only a couple of yards out.
Murdoch did deny him his hat-trick from close range soon after following a scramble in the box, but it didn’t put a dampener on what was a simply wonderful evening’s entertainment at Ibrox.
RANGERS: Alnwick; Tavernier, Cardoso, Alves (Wilson, 56), Hodson; Candeias, Rossiter, Dorrans (Holt, 69), Windass; Miller (Kranjcar, 59), Morelos.
SUBS: Foderingham, Jack, Hodson, Hardie, McCrorie.
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC: Murdoch, Williamson, Martin, Morris, Ashcroft, Higginbotham (Shiels 62), Wedderburn, McManus, Paton, Cardle (Lochhead, 68), Hopkirk (Mvoto, .
SUBS: Gill, Splaine, Talbot, Smith.
REFEREE: Don Robertson