Rangers serenely prevail with Joe Aribo shining as Dundee are on wrong end of history books
In a fixture which is just about as much of a home banker as it is possible to find in Scottish football, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s assured start to life as Rangers manager was serenely maintained.
As the Dutchman made it four wins out of four since taking the reins from Steven Gerrard, Dundee were on the wrong end of a new entry in the record books.
This was Rangers’ 13th consecutive league victory at Ibrox over the Dark Blues, a sequence stretching back 20 years and which is now the longest such run since the fixture began in 1893.
As the Scottish champions reopened a seven point lead over Celtic at the top of the Premiership table, strikes from Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos either side of a Ryan Sweeney own goal secured a margin of victory which barely reflected the extent of their dominance.
Rangers weaved some impressive patterns throughout with only some slack finishing on their part and fine goalkeeping from Adam Legzdins keeping the scoreline relatively respectable for James McPake’s men.
Aribo has quickly established himself as the creative fulcrum of the style of play van Bronckhorst is steadily implementing at Rangers and he shone again here, fully meriting the ovation he received when he was replaced in the closing stages.
From the early stages, Dundee struggled to get a handle on the Nigerian international’s clever movement and imposing physicality as he popped up on both the left and right to bring fluidity and momentum to his team in the attacking third of the pitch.
It was no surprise that Aribo should make the breakthrough, although his goal was scant reward for the level of control enjoyed by Rangers in the first half.
If the absence of Steven Davis and Ryan Kent from the home team’s starting line-up had offered any encouragement to Dundee, it did nothing to ease the rearguard action they had to employ.
They were fortunate that Rangers’ finishing let them down so often. Fashion Sakala posed a constant threat coming off the left but the Zambian striker blazed his first effort off target, then saw his next deflected over by Liam Fontaine.
Legzdins, whose attempts to slow play down infuriated the home support, was at his best when Sakala finally got an effort on target, diving to his left to keep it out.
It was a thankless shift up front for Dundee striker Danny Mullen but he might easily have continued his recent scoring form when unusually sloppy play from Glen Kamara allowed the visitors to mount their first attack of any note. From Jordan Marshall’s cross, Mullen had a free header but badly miscued it.
Rangers cranked up the pressure in response with Legzdins producing another fine save to deny Connor Goldson before Aribo headed wide from a Borna Barisic free-kick.
Aribo’s 36th minute opener had an element of good fortune about it but no-one could say Rangers hadn’t earned it. Cutting in from the right, Aribo’s low shot took a deflection off the toe of Fontaine to send the ball trundling beyond the wrong-footed Legzdins.
Rangers should have put the contest to bed before the break with Morelos passing up a couple of excellent chances. His first forced a terrific save from Legzdins but his second was a tame attempt straight at the ‘keeper following tremendous link-up play with Sakala.
Rangers resumed with renewed vigour in pursuit of the second goal but met further frustration as Scott Arfield’s effort hit Legzdins’ left hand post before the ‘keeper came up with another great save to deny the luckless Sakala.
But the pressure finally paid off again in the 55th minute with Aribo inevitably involved. Appearing from the left this time, he worked space to fire across a dangerous low cross which Sweeney could only divert into his own net.
The introduction of Leigh Griffiths, replacing Dundee captain Charlie Adam, brought an element of pantomime to the occasion, albeit not a family-friendly one given the nature of the abuse he inevitably received from the Rangers fans.
The Celtic striker was perhaps fortunate to see out the rest of the game. Having been booked for a foul on Aribo, which incensed the Rangers players to such an extent that Morelos was also cautioned for his part in the flare-up which ensued, Griffiths escaped a second yellow for an equally ill-advised challenge on Calvin Bassey.
Complacency in the Rangers defence almost saw Dundee pull a goal back when Paul McMullan shot wide after a mix-up between Allan McGregor and Bassey but any remaining doubt over the outcome ended with Morelos’ 10th goal of the season with 20 minutes remaining.
Receiving a pass from Arfield with his back to goal, the Colombian international showed great strength to wriggle away from Marshall, Sweeney and Fontaine before dispatching the ball beyond Legzdins from close range.
There was almost a stoppage time consolation for Dundee when Celtic loanee Griffiths, joined by Jason Cummings in a two-pronged attack as the visitors adopted a more adventurous approach, saw a shot hit McGregor’s left hand post before cannoning just wide from the rebound.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic; Arfield, Kamara (Jack 73), Aribo (Bacuna 83); Hagi (Wright 65), Morelos, Sakala. Subs not used: McLaughlin, Lundstram, Patterson, Roofe.
Dundee (4-2-3-1): Legzdins, Kerr, Fontaine, Sweeney, Marshall; Elliot, Adam (Griffiths 54); McCowan, McGowan, McMullan; Mullen (Cummings 62). Subs not used: Lawlor, Jakubiak, Panter, Lamb.
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