Rangers keep their cool amid Hibs bedlam: VAR drama, club tweet, conductor Diomande, comedy clearance

Drama aplenty at Ibrox as Clement’s team retake top spot – but Hibs’ top-six destiny out of their hands

Winning is all that matters in a title race. Rangers had some rocky moments in a pulsating match against Hibs at Ibrox but Philippe Clement’s team picked up the three points and moved top of the Premiership, for a night at least, with a 3-1 victory.

Celtic can restore their place at the top of the league on Easter Sunday should they defeat Livingston at noon on Easter Sunday. But for Rangers, they go into next weekend’s showdown with their Old Firm adversaries back here in Govan in good fettle following a cracking tussle with Hibs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

James Tavernier, Cyriel Dessers and Rabbi Matondo got the goals in a match that was never, ever dull. Hibs played their part, briefly drawing level through a fine effort from Myziane Maolida. They could not cope with Rangers’ firepower, though, who were powered by an excellent midfield performance from the increasingly impressive Mohamed Diomande. There was even better news with the return of forward Abdallah Sima, who made a late appearance as sub. This was his first outing since January 2.

Rabbi Matondo fires home Rangers' third goal in the victory over Hibs.Rabbi Matondo fires home Rangers' third goal in the victory over Hibs.
Rabbi Matondo fires home Rangers' third goal in the victory over Hibs.

Hibs had not scored a goal against Rangers in their three previous defeats by Clement’s men this season. Scant comfort will be Maolida’s effort, although his burgeoning relationship with fellow flamboyant forward Elie Youan should give them hope as they try to break into the top six. Dundee’s 2-1 victory against St Johnstone means they drop to seventh with two matches before the split to come against Saints and Motherwell. Win both of those and they will have a shot at pipping either the Dee, a point better off, or St Mirren, five points ahead of them in fourth, to the post. Matters, however, are now out of their hands.

On to the action – and there was lots of it. After an early moment of comedy when Hibs defender Will Fish smacked team-mate Joe Newell fully in the face when trying to take a quick free-kick, we were then treated to a thriller. Rangers so nearly took the lead on 17 minutes when Jordan Obita hooked a Scott Wright effort off his own line following a lightning-quick counter-attack from a Hibs corner, and were then awarded a penalty on 20 minutes when VAR Andrew Dallas advised match referee David Dickinson to take a look at Hibs midfielder Nectarios Triantis catching John Souttar in the face with an elbow from a Rangers set-piece. Hibs were not happy with award – the club’s official account tweeting: “Penalty for Rangers, who had 20 minutes?” – but the decision looked pretty clear-cut, despite Triantis not intending to whack Souttar on the nose.

The drama – and VAR – was not finished there. Tavernier’s penalty was weak and just off-centre to the left. Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall had read the Rangers skipper like a book, just like he did a couple of weeks ago in the teams’ Scottish Cup quarter-final, and saved the effort. But in a repeat of that Easter Road clash, Rangers were first to the rebound, Wright rifling the ball home. The home fans went wild and everyone set up for the restart. Dickinson, though, stood with his hand to his ear. Dallas was talking. Hold on, Dave, there’s more. Wright had encroached into the penalty box before Tavernier struck the ball. No goal, indirect free-kick, Ibrox deflated like a cheap paddling pool.

It is a credit to the Rangers players that they kept their composure amid the madness. We had lost several minutes of this match to such bedlam but Rangers did, finally, have the lead on 27 minutes. The ball made its way to Tavernier at the far post and despite the valiant efforts of Fish to clear the ball off the line, the skipper’s effort crashed into the net as he became the highest-scoring defender in British history with 131 career goals. Sarcastic cheers greeted the moment Dickinson blew for the goal.

Hibs' Myziane Maolida had briefly levelled with a fine goal of his own.Hibs' Myziane Maolida had briefly levelled with a fine goal of his own.
Hibs' Myziane Maolida had briefly levelled with a fine goal of his own.

All this tomfoolery resulted in seven minutes of stoppage time. We got not one, but two goals in this period. Hibs’ leveller was a lovely bit of football, started and finished by Maolida. He slipped Youan through on the break down the right, he cut inside and fed the ball back to Maolida, and the Comorian outwitted Tavernier and jabbed the ball past a sprawling Jack Butland from close range to level.

Alas, Hibs will lament not holding on until the break. Rangers roared back. Todd Cantwell had too much time down the right and his devilish cross was met square by Dessers from close range. His header rocketed in via the crossbar. We paused with Rangers ahead. The second half could surely not be as manic.

Rangers could have doubled their lead on 48 minutes had Dessers not inadvertently got in the way of netbound John Lundstram effort. Then Adam Le Fondre chipped meekly into the hands of Butland at the other end. And then, Borna Barisic stood up a lovely cross and Marshall clawed away Dessers’ header. More goals were on the way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Dessers, yet again, missed a nice chance from a Tavernier cut-back on the hour-mark. Rangers were hemming Hibs in and looking for a knock-out blow but without much success. Tom Lawrence and Dujon Sterling had been summoned from the bench to add fresh impetus. Ross McCausland joined them on 66 minutes. The game was lulling dangerously, and Hibs were still alive.

Referee David Dickinson checks VAR before awarding Rangers a penalty.Referee David Dickinson checks VAR before awarding Rangers a penalty.
Referee David Dickinson checks VAR before awarding Rangers a penalty.

Back from concussion, the livewire Martin Boyle was introduced on 70 minutes for Youan as Nick Montgomery searched for an equaliser. His first task, however, was to scamper back and intercept a Rangers break from a corner.

Sensing the importance of the moment, Ibrox burst into song to try and lift the Rangers players over the line. The game should have been done on 78 minutes when Lawrence rolled Rocky Bushiri far too easily but as he drove into the box, he was unable to find a team-mate with the cut-back. Hibs ought to have punished them in the next action when Boyle teed up Jair Tavares, but the forward’s effort ballooned over the bar.

It was another substitute who put the tin lid on proceedings. Step forward Rangers winger Matondo on 85 minutes. Out on the left flank. he slalomed past a tired lunge from Newell and thumped the ball into the far corner. Job done. Next move, Celtic.



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