Hibs captain Paul Hanlon defends Ryan Porteous and dismisses Steven Gerrard claims over Rangers red card

Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon believes Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is wrong to suggest Ryan Porteous needs to learn from past mistakes after being sent off at Ibrox on Sunday.

Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon has defended his team-mate Ryan Porteous in the aftermath of the red card he received in Sunday's 2-1 defeat against Rangers at Ibrox. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Gerrard claimed Hibs defender Porteous was guilty of a potentially ‘leg-breaking’ challenge on Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo which prompted referee Nick Walsh to show him a straight red card after 30 minutes of the Premiership fixture.

It was a third career dismissal for 22-year-old Porteous and his second against Rangers after previously being sent off for a foul on Borna Barisic at Easter Road in December 2019.

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Gerrard also cited a contentious incident in the same fixture 12 months earlier when many considered Porteous fortunate only to be booked for a challenge on Rangers’ then on-loan midfielder Lassana Coulibaly.

Paul Hanlon says Hibs will target another unbeaten run after the international break as they look to bounce back from their first league defeat of the season. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Porteous’ latest transgression proved costly for Hibs who were leading 1-0 at the time through Kevin Nisbet’s early header but went on to suffer a first league defeat of the season as second half goals from Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos took Rangers back to the top of the Premiership table.

But Hanlon has defended Porteous, insisting his young central defensive team-mate has already improved that aspect of his game.

“I don’t think Ryan needs to learn from it,” said Hanlon. “If we go back to his younger days a couple of years ago, he was doing two or three of those (challenges) a game. He came in and he wanted to make those big tackles.

“He’s learnt as well, he’s learnt the way referees work, and he’s been clever in terms of picking and choosing when he makes big tackles. We all want to see big tackles, fans love seeing it, it’s part of the game, but it’s probably a bit more about learning how the game is refereed more.

Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet, who scored his fourth goal of the season against Rangers at Ibrox, is in the Scotland squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Israel and Faroe Islands. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“I think he probably had a reputation, but I don’t think (he has anymore). Especially this season, his performances have been top class. It’s all been about Ryan Porteous’ defending and how good he’s been for us every week. I think that’s probably the main part to focus on.

“I thought he won the ball (in the challenge on Aribo). The way I saw it, I ran into the middle of the pitch and turned round and what I saw was, I thought he won the ball, but he does come in at a lot of speed. The way the games are refereed now, we see the speed and the reaction of the Rangers player, it’s a straight red.

“When you do go in that fast in tackles, it gives that option to the referee. We’re disappointed for him, disappointed for us. It’s one we’ll take on the chin and move on.

“We all have chats as a defensive unit quite a bit. We go over all different aspects of the game. We all speak about things. It’s about learning from your mistakes, he’s still young, so he’s got plenty of time to learn. He’ll be fine.

“He’s gutted, aye, but he’s probably feeling a wee bit hard done by. The referee’s angle is probably the one where it looks the best tackle which is frustrating. It’s one of those things. It’s happened now. We dug really deep to try and get something from the game and it obviously wasn’t to be.”

The defeat leaves Hibs in third place in the league table, four points behind Rangers and three adrift of their second-placed city rivals Hearts.

It saw Jack Ross’ squad go into the latest international break on a downbeat note but Hanlon says they will be ready to embark on another positive sequence of results when they return to action with a home fixture against Dundee United on October 16.

“It’s just about starting another run again,” he added. “We knew Ibrox was going to be a difficult place to visit but we were confident. We had trained really well all week and were buzzing for it. We feel it’s probably a chance missed for us.

“It’s disappointing. We’re really gutted. We worked so hard in the game, started the game so well on the front foot. We were aggressive, stealing the ball in good areas and hitting them on the break. We were looking strong at the back as well. We’re disappointed not to get anything from the game.

“You need moments of quality when you come here as well. We had that in the game. It was a great cross (from Chris Cadden) and a great header (by Kevin Nisbet). It put us in a great position. We’re just disappointed we didn’t hold on, especially because we went down to 10 men - 1-1 would have been a great result. To come away with nothing is obviously bitterly disappointing, given how much work we put into it.

“We felt there was definitely something there for us. But we need to put it behind us. We’ve got a bit of a break now, some of the boys will go away and play international games while the rest of us work hard.”

Hanlon felt the nature of Rangers manager Gerrard’s celebrations at the full-time whistle on Sunday, as he walked onto the pitch and pumped a fist to all four stands, was testament to how difficult Hibs made life for the champions.

“I think that’s the biggest part of it, it’s a compliment to us as well and how well we played,” said Hanlon. “It’s part of the game, he’s delighted his team won, and that’s it at the end of the day.”

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