Rangers made it successive league wins and exhibited enough attacking potential to provide optimism ahead of a pivotal few weeks.
Alfredo Morelos scored twice as the home side turned on the style in the end. Successive games against Partick Thistle in the league and League Cup now stand between Pedro Caixinha and the first clash of the season against Celtic.
On the evidence of this it might not be the foregone conclusion many believe, particularly since Rangers host the champions. Some caution must be applied, however. Hard though they fought, Dundee were some way below the level of team Rangers have to beat to be able to truly rate their worth.
But Morelos continues to prove why he garnered such a reputation as a goalscorer in Finland. His brace yesterday brought him up to a healthy total of seven for the season, and five already in the league.
The enigmatic Carlos Pena, of whom so much was expected and so little seen, also got off the mark for Rangers in what was only his third appearance. But it was Josh Windass who really sparked Rangers into life after replacing Niko Kranjcar ten minutes into the second half. He provided more energy down the left while also scoring Rangers’ decisive second goal.
A young Dundee team fought hard to try and secure something from the game and should have equalised just after half-time through Roarie Deacon. The game ran away from the visitors in the end amid question marks over on-loan Scott Allan’s future.
Neil McCann raised eyebrows after 38 minutes when withdrawing the midfielder, who’d already been on the receiving end of treatment from Rangers supporters. They unsurprisingly delighted in this seeming loss of face for Allan, who cut a dejected figure on the bench in the time left until half-time. No player likes to be replaced before the interval, especially one with such a high-profile reputation and who had been so desperate to impress.
McCann later explained that the midfielder had been carrying an injury and Ibrox is no place to be anything less than 100 per cent fit. But it was a brave time to make such a significant tactical change with half-time looming. Rangers had looked dangerous down Dundee’s left but had still to make a breakthrough.
Dundee had to quickly re-organise, with A-Jay Leitch-Smith coming on to partner the returning Sofien Moussa in attack, and Faissal El Bakhtaoui moving out left.
Just a couple of minutes later Dundee were undone. Neat play on the edge of the box from Kenny Miller and Kranjcar created an opening for Morelos, who drilled in a shot Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain could only help into the net with just five minutes of the half left.
A penny for Allan’s thoughts as he sat on the bench, with his short Dundee career still to ignite.
But Rangers will feel they should have opened the scoring long before they did. Bain continued his fine season with some fine stops, particularly from Kranjcar and Morelos, and both times with his legs. The young Dundee defenders – centre-halves Kerr Waddell and Jack Hendry are 19 and 22 years old respectively – also distinguished themselves with last-ditch blocks.
While Rangers were the dominant side, Dundee had shown glimpses of their attacking potential but were too often let down by their final ball.
The hosts overwhelmed the visitors after the break. But Dundee will feel a defining moment of the afternoon was Deacon heading inches wide just after the interval after good work from Leitch-Smith. But there was no way back after Windass put Rangers two up with a well-placed header from Daniel Candeias’ cross. The hosts scored twice more in the 30 minutes that were left to set them up for Friday’s tricky trip to Firhill to play the first of two upcoming games at Thistle.
They go in good heart with Pena, who replaced Miller in 63 minutes, slamming in his first goal for the club from the edge of the six-yard box after good work on the left from Windass, who found his fellow substitute with a cutback.
Morelos capped a good afternoon for him personally with another goal to round off the scoring for Rangers, skipping past left-back Kevin Holt before beating Bain at his near post with a cross-cum-shot.
Dundee’s goal was very much of the consolation sort. El Bakhtaoui made some amends for a patchy personal performance by drilling his third goal of the season past Wes Foderingham with a minute to go.