Hibs-Rangers verdict: Boyle's horrible injury, one red card reckless, two fitness concerns for Clement as his team progress

Rangers keep their Scottish Cup hopes alive as Hibs’ dismissals end hopes of staging probable comeback

With the League Cup already safely banked, Rangers remain fighting on another three fronts. What they didn’t need was a modern updating of the Battle of Easter Road, particularly on the back of a gruelling night in Lisbon last week.

There were several casualties, though the most concerning of them involved a Hibs player. Martin Boyle was stretchered off the park and delivered straight to hospital after Rangers defender John Souttar landed on top of him towards the end of the first half. He was flat out on the turf for at least seven minutes, during which he barely twitched a muscle. Horrible. Even the Rangers medical team were on the park helping the stricken forward in a sign of just how much anxiety there was over what looked like a head knock.

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At least Hibs were able to replace Boyle with Elie Youan, although he struggled to adapt to the pace of the game. The hosts’ next departures came at the invitation of referee Steven McLean, two in a matter of minutes midway through the second half.

Nathan Moriah-Welsh's red card left Hibs with nine men against Rangers.Nathan Moriah-Welsh's red card left Hibs with nine men against Rangers.
Nathan Moriah-Welsh's red card left Hibs with nine men against Rangers.

Already trailing to John Lundstram’s bundled-in goal after James Tavernier’s saved penalty, these were defining moments confirming there was no way back for nine-man Hibs. First to go was Jordan Obita, given his marching orders after 69 minutes for a second bookable offence after catching Rangers substitute Rabbi Matondo with a trailing arm. And then just two minutes later Nathan Moriah-Welsh came skidding in to upend Lundstram in front of the dugouts at the cost of another red, a straight one in this instance. A VAR check did not find reason to ask McLean to take another look. It was reckless and unnecessary from the Hibs player, particularly given his side’s already dire predicament.

Initial fears about the size of crowd were not realised with over 14,000 confirmed as being in attendance. The majority, however, had dribbled out of the exit points by the time Fabio Silva scored Rangers' second with seven minutes left with a low drive past David Marshall. Still, those stoics who had remained in the home stands delivered their judgement of McLean’s performance at the end with a hearty, collective bout of booing. Meanwhile, “Hibs are falling apart again!” sang the Rangers fans. It was a brutal verdict given the home team had looked capable of forcing extra time – at least – prior to the avoidable red cards.

Still, perhaps some of the pluck had already been knocked out of Hibs, understandably so. The delay as medics tended to Boyle meant the first half was extended by nine minutes. It put a damper on a cup tie that had been developing rather nicely.

Although Rangers were already in the lead, it was a narrow advantage established rather untidily. Tavernier’s penalty in the 22nd minute – after Obita clumsily tripped Dujon Sterling – was saved by Marshall to huge acclaim from the fans behind the goal. The Hibs goalkeeper’s teammates seemed similarly impressed. Too impressed to think about the clearing the loose ball, which was duly bundled in by the far more attentive Lundstram. The goal was allowed to stand despite a VAR check for handball.

Fabio Silva scores Rangers' second goal against Hibs.Fabio Silva scores Rangers' second goal against Hibs.
Fabio Silva scores Rangers' second goal against Hibs.

Sterling brought out a good save from Marshall shortly afterwards as the visitors upped the ante but the Rangers wing-back collapsed in the box not long afterwards while clutching the back of his leg. He was offered a consoling hug by manager Philippe Clement before he departed down the tunnel. Who knows when we might see him again? Certainly not as quickly as this week’s Europa League second leg against Benfica at Ibrox, which will likely also be too soon for Ross McCausland, who replaced Sterling and then was forced off himself twenty minutes into the second half.