St Johnstone 0 - 4 Rangers: Visitors overcome sluggish opening period with second-half rout

Alfredo Morelos celebrates after giving Rangers the lead. Picture: SNS
Alfredo Morelos celebrates after giving Rangers the lead. Picture: SNS
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Rangers had both the gears and gifted goalscorers to allow them to end a perfect week in perfect fashion at Perth yesterday.  Alfredo Morelos - who else? - and a late double-snaring cameo from Jermaine Defoe - who else? - underpinned a commanding second-half display that resulted from them shaking off a sluggishness that might have had more than a little to do with their punishing efforts in picking off Feyenoord on Thursday night.


Morelos did everything but score in the Europa League win with an immense line-leading display in which he produced both the bullocking and the balletic, rolling opponents and holding them off, and the ball up. Yesterday, these irresistible qualities were again to the fore as he turned the encounter with a 47th minute opener that owed everything to his ability to bully. In truth, Greg Tansey was as weak as the Colombian was strong in failing to deal with a Ryan Jack pass he pushed out left. Morelos punished him by prising possession using his physique before cracking the ball high into the net from 14 yards for a 12th goal of the season. Rangers were rampant from that point, save from a goalline debate over Steven Davis heel position when he blocked a Murray Davidson shot that was followed by a break for Defoe to make it 3-0 in the 89th minute.

And for Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard, satisfaction over Morelos’ current form is heightened by the 23-year-old’s ability to stay on the right side of officialdom, his composure extending beyond sightings of goal in receiving only three cautions this season on the back of five reds and 18 yellows last season as he seemed incapable of controlling his temper.

“He deserved that goal for his endeavour and desire,” said Gerrard. “Against a different type of opposition on Thursday he was unplayable. He’s in good place, he’s enjoying his football and he’s behaving himself. He was even shaking the referee by the hand on the way off so he’s definitely trying. He’s a match winner and I’m really pleased with him.”

On the back of a first period in which Allan McGregor made a vital block when Michael O’Halloran was clean through as St Johnstone competed, the home side were overwhelmed by the midfield control exerted by Joe Aribo, Jack and Davis. The Perth club’s manager Tommy Wright conceded they did not help themselves, a corner on the hour finding its way back to James Tavernier to cross for Connor Goldson to find the target with a downward header.

The 79th minute appearance of Defoe allowed Rangers to top and tail their victory. Wright was annoyed his players lost focus haranguing referee Andrew Dallas over Davis thwarting a Davidson shot television evidence appeared to show legitimately prevented a goal as their visitors shuttled the ball up the pitch for Davis to lay on a pass for Defoe to sweep in.

The Englishman then appeared offside when he received the ball a minute later on the left, but there was no disputing his brilliance in shift the ball from left to right to take out two defenders before arrowing the ball low into the corner with a shot on the turn.

“I thought the linesman [assistant Douglas Ross] deserves credit for getting that {goal-line decision] right,” said Gerrard. “It could have put us under pressure late on but with our allround application I felt we thoroughly deserved the clean sheet.”

Wright didn’t dispute that, though maintained his team had scored “a perfectly good goal”. It wasn’t the cause of a sixth league game without a win for his side, however, and he made that plain. “You think it is going to be 2-1 but it is 3-0 and game over,” he said. “We think it is over the line, I know Rangers are saying it wasn’t. My first impressions were that it was over the line. If we had VAR it would tell us one way or another. And the fourth goal was well offside. I don’t know how the linesman doesn’t get it, that was poor.

“But refereeing decisions aren’t what cost us the game, it was our poor decision making and poor defending. For their third we had too many players arguing with officials and they went up the field and scored. That is naviety, just get on with the game. Rangers deserved their win. My frustration is not with the officials but with our defending at times."