JERMAIN DEFOE scored a stunning hat-trick and produced a man of the match display as Rangers recorded their first home win of 2019/20 in the Ladbrokes Premiership against Hibs.
Defoe was the standout performer as he returned to Steven Gerrard’s starting XI and in the first-half his early double, scored in the ninth and 15th minutes, put the Light Blues in a strong position as they dominated play.
Daryl Horgan, however, pulled one back for the visitors five minutes before half-time meaning it was all to play for after the break.
Hibs’ task got tougher when defender Sean Mackie received a second yellow card 10 minutes into the second period.
After that you felt it was only a matter of time before Rangers bagged a third and on 74 minutes it finally arrived, with Defoe heading in from Steven Davis’ brilliant cross.
Super sub Alfredo Morelos added gloss to the scoreline as he went on for Defoe and bagged a fine brace, with his goals coming in the 77th and 89th minutes. Sheyi Ojo then added a sixth with a deflected shot before the full-time whistle.
Despite the damp and drizzly conditions a sold-out Ibrox was rocking prior to kick-off with 49,718 fans in attendance and Gerrard’s men almost got off to the best possible start.
With just three minutes played Connor Goldson floated an accurate long ball over the head of Hibs defender, and former Ger, Darren McGregor.
It landed perfectly at the feet of Defoe but his touch, on this occasion, let him down and the ball went through to Marciano.
The striker made no mistake on nine minutes, however, as he scored the opening goal.
Ojo, who was lively from the referee’s first whistle, fired a powerful, curling left foot shot at goal which Marciano could only palm back into his area.
Defoe, like any great striker, was there in a flash to drill the ball into the back of the net.
His second goal of the afternoon arrived just six minutes later and it came from terrific build-up play.
Jordan Jones used his blistering pace to dance past two Hibs men on the left flank and he fed the ball to Ojo who had darted into the visitors’ 18-yard box.
The club’s number 11 squared a great cross to Defoe who, without hesitation, smashed a low, left-foot finish inside Marciano’s near post.
Rangers were clearly in the mood as they went in search of a third goal. Goldson saw a header tipped over the bar and Marciano was again at full stretch as he got a hand to James Tavernier’s free-kick which was going into the top corner.
Defoe, in particular, was causing all sorts of problems for the Hibs backline and on 34 minutes he went turned provider for Aribo. The big midfielder had two Hibs players in front of him but he still got a shot away, skimming the side netting of Marciano’s goal.
In the next attack Ojo this time played a lovely through pass to Defoe who used his pace to beat McGregor to the ball. Marciano sprinted from his line and did well to make a block to deny the Gers star a third goal.
Up to this point Hibs had not troubled Allan McGregor but against the run of play they found the net to make the score 2-1 and it was all a bit too easy.
Scott Allan produced a delightful pass through to right winger Daryl Horgan, who got in behind Goldson and Nikola Katic before he toe-poked the ball into the net in front of the Copland Road Stand.
Having taken a battering for most of the first forty-five, Paul Heckinbottom’s men were now back in the game before half-time when really they should have been dead and buried.
The Leith side, however, suffered a blow 10 minutes into the second half when defender Sean Mackie was shown a red card for a second bookable offence.
Ryan Jack attempted a clever dinked pass through to Defoe but the left back lifted his arm to stop it, giving John Beaton no option but to send the Hibs player for an early bath.
With a man advantage Rangers looked to finish the game off and it seemed only a matter of time before it would arrive, with Defoe coming close on a couple of occasions and Jones firing a shot over the bar.
Marciano then produced a stunning save to stop Ojo from finding the bottom corner of his net with a left-foot curler from 20 yards.
The Gers winger tried a similar attempt minutes later but this time sent his effort went wide before Tavernier curled a shot over from Ryan Jack’s cut-back.
At this point it was starting to get nervy with fans wondering if a third goal was ever going to come, but on 74 minutes it was that man Defoe that found the net again.
Davis made a great run to get in a position to cross and his deep delivery was simply stunning for his teammate, who headed the ball down into the net from close range.
This was to be Defoe’s last involvement in the match. He received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Alfredo Morelos, with Greg Stewart also going on for Jordan Jones.
Morelos’ impact was immediate as it only took him a minute to get on the scoresheet. The Colombian used his pace and power to get in a shooting position and his ferocious strike beat Marciano at his near post.
It was a moment Morelos clearly enjoyed as he celebrated with his teammates and in the 89th minute he scored his side’s fifth goal with another ruthless finish from Stewart’s assist.
The scoring was completed in injury time when Ojo’s deflected shot beat Marciano and the Hibs keeper must have been delighted to hear the final whistle.
Defoe will grab the headlines for his terrific display, and rightly so, but this was a team effort with every player in blue playing their part in an emphatic and impressive victory.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan (Halliday 79); Jack, Davis, Aribo; Jones (Stewart, 75), Defoe (Morelos 75), Ojo
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Edmundson, Docherty, Arfield
GOALS: Defoe 9, 15, 74 Morelos 77, 89, Ojo 90+2
BOOKINGS: Ojo, Katic
HIBS: Marciano; Whittaker, McGregor, Hanlon, Mackie; Horgan (Gray 56), Vela, Allan (Kamberi 66), Mallan, Newell (Murray 46), Doidge
SUBS NOT USED: Maxwell, Slivka, Jackson, Shaw
GOALS: Horgan 40
BOOKINGS: McGregor, Doidge, Mackie, Vela
SENT OFF: Mackie
REF: John Beaton