Rangers 2-0 St Johnstone: Rejuvenation under Giovanni van Bronckhorst continues to gather momentum

The rejuvenation of Rangers under Giovanni van Bronckhorst continues to gather momentum.

Alfredo Morelos scored his 12th goal of the season to put Rangers in front against St Johnstone at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Alfredo Morelos scored his 12th goal of the season to put Rangers in front against St Johnstone at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

In a month with the potential to define the shape of their title defence, the Scottish champions extended their new manager’s unbeaten run to seven games with a victory over bottom of the table St Johnstone which was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests.

It was another assured performance from Rangers as goals either side of the interval from Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent ensured they preserved their four point lead over Celtic.

The home fans left Ibrox believing that advantage may have been stretched to six, before news of Celtic’s stoppage time winner over Ross County in Dingwall filtered through.

Ryan Kent scored just after half-time to make it 2-0 for Rangers against St Johnstone at Ibrox. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

Advertisement

Hide Ad

But the Rangers supporters are enjoying a sense of contentment at the impact van Bronckhorst has had on their team since he replaced Steven Gerrard last month.

The breakthrough from Morelos just before the interval was just reward for the patience and persistence of van Bronckhorst’s side who were largely camped inside the Saints half as they passed the ball with precision, never allowing frustration to get the better of them as a series of chances came and went.

Zander Clark would have anticipated a busy evening and so it proved. Much of his involvement came as a result of Kent’s torment of both Shaun Rooney and James Brown down the visitors’ right flank.

The winger looked very much in the mood as he forced a couple of early saves from Clark, the second of them a fine contribution from Scotland squad goalkeeper as he dived to his left to divert the ball wide.

Advertisement

Hide Ad
Ianis Hagi returned to the Rangers starting line-up for the Premiership fixture against St Johnstone at Ibrox. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

On the opposite wing, Ianis Hagi also posed a major threat as the Romanian replaced Fashion Sakala in the only change to the starting line-up from Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.

Joe Aribo also continued his rich vein of form and was unfortunate to see his curling shot clip the outside of Clark’s right hand post as he got on the end of one of the many lengthy passing moves by Rangers.

It was fairly relentless from the hosts with St Johnstone struggling to get over the halfway line. Clark made another decent save to deny Kent who was then prevented from applying a finish to a dazzling move from Aribo and Morelos when Rooney managed to beat him to the ball inside the six yard box.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Saints captain Liam Gordon was next to effect a crucial piece of last ditch defending, although he was aided by Morelos dallying too long on the ball when he received a fine pass from Glen Kamara.

New signing Jacob Butterfield, thrown straight into the Saints starting line-up, had precious little opportunity to showcase his creative skills in midfield. As he dropped back to help his defence, he survived a penalty claim against him when Kamara went down in the box under his challenge.

Davidson’s side weren’t helped by their inability to hold the ball up and keep possession on the rare occasions it came their way. Eetu Vertainen had an especially wretched time on that front and the Saints boss cut an apoplectic figure on the touchline as the Finnish forward made a series of basic errors.

It was from one of them that Rangers won the corner which provided their opener. Vertainen lost the ball tamely to Calvin Bassey around the halfway line and Kent was sent racing clear to force the set piece.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Borna Barisic whipped it over from the left, Connor Goldson headed it into the six yard box where Morelos wasn’t picked up as he nodded in his 12th goal of the season

It was no surprise when Vertainen didn’t reappear for the second half, Stevie May replacing him up front for Saints.

But before the change could have any effect, the Perth side found themselves 2-0 down as Rangers resumed at a fierce tempo.

Clark had to make a smart save to keep out another close range effort from Morelos before the Colombian striker played a key role in Kent’s 49th minute goal. After a swift exchange of passes with Aribo allowed him to surge clear down the right, Morelos flashed the ball low across the face of the six yard box to provide Kent with a straightforward tap-in.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

It took Saints until just after the hour mark to register their first attempt at goal. As Rangers took their foot off the pedal for the first time, they were almost caught out by Reece Devine as the Manchester United loanee cut in from the left and fired a shot just wide of Allan McGregor’s left hand post.

It sparked a bright spell for the visitors and when McGregor spilled a corner kick, the ensuing scramble ended with a headed opportunity for Jamie McCart which the defender was unable to direct on target.

An error from Barisic, shortly before he had to be replaced by Nathan Patterson after pulling up injured, presented Liam Craig with a clear sight of goal but the midfielder went down theatrically under a challenge from Kamara in a bid to win a penalty. All it earned him was a booking for simulation.

Rangers missed chances to add to their tally as they finished the game strongly but earned a warm ovation from their fans at the final whistle.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic (Patterson 79); Arfibo, Kamara, Arfield; Hagi, Morelos, Kent (Sakala 68). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Lundstram, Simpson, Bacuna, Wright.

St Johnstone (3-4-2-1): Clark, Brown, Gordon, McCart; Rooney, Butterfield (Bryson 79), Craig, Devine; Crawford, Vertainen (May 46); O’Halloran (Solomon-Otabor 68). Subs not used: Parish, Dendoncker, Booth, Bryson, Muller.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.