A MOMENT of individual genius from Borna Barisic was enough for Rangers to see off an organised St Mirren side this afternoon as the Light Blues maintained their 100 per-cent start to the season.
The Croatian’s free-kick on 59 minutes was simply wonderful, and just what was required for Light Blues to make sure they go into next Sunday’s Old Firm derby with maximum points.
From the side which faced Legia Warsaw in Thursday’s Europa League play-off, boss Steven Gerrard named five changes.
Out went Nikola Katic, Jon Flanagan, Steven Davis, Sheyi Ojo and Alfredo Morelos, with their places taken in today’s XI by Filip Helander for a league debut, Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara, Jordan Jones and Jermain Defoe.
And Defoe, with just over two minutes on the clock, should have put Gers in front. A Connor Goldson clearing header reached the striker on the edge of the area, and he nodded the ball down into the path of the oncoming Scott Arfield.
As Defoe turned, Arfield played the ball into his teammate’s path, picking a great, weighted ball through the St Mirren defence, but the Englishman, usually so deadly in such areas, poked the ball wide of the left-hand post.
The game became pretty scrappy afterwards, with a couple of long-range efforts apiece all that really happened of note, before on 29 minutes, a Jon Obika cross kept drifting towards the back post and came off the bar for Saints.
A decent Ryan Jack effort on the half-volley followed, and it looked goal-bound until it took a slight touch off a striped jersey to take it behind for a corner.
Next up, a James Tavernier cross was met by Arfield at the front post, and while goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky did well to block his effort, the rebound bobbled around in the area and couldn’t be turned in by a player in light blue.
Within a minute of the restart for the second half, Joe Aribo came close to the opener, heading a Tavernier corner just wide of Hladky’s right-hand post, before the goalkeeper had to make a smart save from another Jack effort from just outside the area, doing well turn it round the post.
St Mirren were doing so well to hold back Gers, but on 59 minutes came the breakthrough for the visitors – and it came from a moment of sensational brilliance from Borna Barisic.
Jermain Defoe was fouled 25 yards from goal by Calum Waters, a good way to the right of goal. The position looked suited to the right-foot perhaps of Tavernier to find the far corner, but instead, it was Barisic who opted to hit it.
And Gers will be glad he did, as what happened next was simply stunning. His left-footed effort cleared the wall, and nested perfectly in the top-near corner, well out the reach of Hladky.
It was the moment of quality Gers had looked for throughout the afternoon to beat the low block of Saints, and it was Barisic’s first goal for the club.
Defoe missed a good opportunity for 2-0 on 75 minutes as he was played in by Tavernier, beating the offside line before firing across the face of goal, the striker being replaced by Alfredo Morelos.
And, the Colombian also had the opportunity to seal the points within five minutes of coming on, superbly beating Waters out to the right of goal before being crowded out as he cut back inside and seeing his eventual shot held easily by Hladky.
Jack’s third shot of the game from outside the area was easily held by Hladky on 89 minutes, before Saints raced to the other end of the park where Junior Morias missed their first real opportunity of the game, his front post shot being easily taken by Allan McGregor.
So Gers now go into an absolutely huge week of football – Legia Warsaw the visitors for a place in the Europa League group stage on Thursday, and then the Old Firm derby between the top two in the Scottish Premiership next Sunday.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Kamara, Jack, Aribo; Jones (Davis, 67), Defoe (Morelos, 75), Arfield (King, 84).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Edmundson, Halliday, Hastie.
BOOKED: Barisic (59’)
ST MIRREN: Hldaky, McGinn, Waters, McLoughlin, MacKenzie, Magennis, Flynn, Obika (Morias, 66), Andreu (Mullen, 84), Durmus (McAllister, 46), Foley.
SUBS NOT USED: Baird, Djorkaeff, MacPherson, Lyness.
BOOKED: Waters (58’),
REFEREE: Kevin Clancy
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