A SUPER second half from Rangers in Perth this afternoon secured all three points against stubborn St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership.
Being held 0-0 at the interval, some Alfredo Morelos brilliance, a fine header from Connor Goldson and a late Jermain Defoe double ensured the Light Blues headed back down the A9 with another league victory under their belts.
From the side which defeated Feyenoord in Thursday’s unforgettable Europa League encounter, boss Steven Gerrard made two changes, swapping Glen Kamara and Scott Arfield for Joe Aribo and Brandon Barker, the winger making his first start for the club.
And, as on Thursday, an impeccable minute’s silence was observed prior to kick-off in memory of Fernando Ricksen who passed away on Wednesday following a long battle with MND.
The effort the Light Blues put in against the Dutch was quite superb, but they showed no signs of any hangover from that in the early minutes, playing with plenty of pace as they looked to hurt the home side early-on.
Borna Barisic curled an early free-kick from 25-yards wide of the target, while Zander Clark denied Alfredo Morelos at his near-post following a lovely ball through the Saints defence from Ryan Jack.
A super Steven Davis pick-out then released Sheyi Ojo into space, and his shot from the edge of the ‘D’ forced Clark into another smart stop. From the resulting corner, Barisic’s ball was headed wide by Morelos.
Ojo was next to try his luck himself, curling an effort wide of Clark’s far post from out on the right before, on 34 minutes, St Johnstone had their first chance of the game.
A long ball broke for Michael O’Halloran just inside the area, but Allan McGregor had read it so well and was on the former Ger quickly to block his attempted effort with a fine save with his left foot.
That was to be it for the first half, but two minutes into the second, Gers, with the words of Steven Gerrard clearly still ringing in their ears, took the lead within two minutes of the restart.
A Saints free kick from out on the right was well-cleared by the Light Blues, and Ryan Jack played a lovely ball long for Alfredo Morelos who was breaking clear.
The Colombian had the close attentions of Scott Tanser as the pass drifted out to the right, but he simply bullied the Saints man off the ball, charged towards goal and sent a beautiful finish beyond Clark from the edge of the box.
In terms of the play, it was no more than Gers deserved, and they continued to dominate the ball before grabbing their second goal of the game on the hour mark.
After a James Tavernier corner was cleared, Joe Aribo did wonderfully to play the ball back out to the right for Tavernier to deliver again – and he did so superbly – picking out Connor Goldson in the middle.
The quality on the delivery was outstanding, and Goldson added some serious power to it to get the ball down and beyond the reach of Clark to hand the visitors a cushion.
From there, the Light Blues found another gear, and began to absolutely batter the home goal in search of more goals.
Morelos saw a chance go just by before substitute Scott Arfield was denied by an excellent stop from Clark. Sheyi Ojo then headed off the bar from a Goldson knock-on as again the big centre-half won the ball in the air in the opposition box.
Goal number three then arrived on 88 minutes as again, Gers went from one end of the field to the other. Saints thought they had forced the ball over the line from a corner, but as they protested to referee Andrew Dallas, Arfield led the charge through the middle of the park before feeding Jermain Defoe to finish with his typical aplomb beyond Clark.
A minute later, the Englishman had another – Aribo this time did brilliantly to feed the striker, and he turned with real class away from Jason Kerr to score his eighth of the campaign.
A super showing from Gers in the second half, they now go onto Livingston in the League Cup on Wednesday.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Jack, Davis, Aribo; Ojo (Stewart, 84) Morelos (Defoe, 79), Barker (Arfield, 62).
SUBS: Foderingham, George Edmundson, Halliday, Kamara.
ST JOHNSTONE: Clark, Ralston, Kerr, Gordon, Tanser, McCann (Kane, 84) Davidson, Wotherspoon (Callachan, 69), Kennedy (Wright, 60), May, O’Halloran.
SUBS: Parish, Duffy, Booth, Swanson.