Rangers’ star striker Alfredo Morelos was one of the main protagonists at Tynecastle on Sunday as the Ibrox side defeated Hearts 2-1.
The Colombian netted what proved to the winner with a fine strike, expertly guiding James Tavernier’s free-kick into the corner past Zdenek Zlamal.
Footage showed that Morelos was one of three Rangers players clearly offside when the set piece was taken, while the striker angered Hearts boss Craig Levein and the home support with his physical play and antagonistic celebrations.
None of which mattered to Steven Gerrard and his players as they hung on to the 2-1 win despite going down to ten men following Scott Arfield’s crazy challenge on Zlamal. The goal and victory took Rangers to the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table.
In addition, the strike was Morelos’ seventh in consecutive games which equalled David Clarkson’s Scottish Premiership record since the SPFL rebranding.
Clarkson scored in seven straight games for Dundee in 2014.
Morelos’ goal was his 17th of the season and took him to nine in the league. He is already a leading contender for player of the year.
Rangers are a different proposition with the Colombian in the line-up, as highlighted when he missed the Betfred Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen.
On Sportscene on Sunday evening, Scotland assistant boss James McFadden admitted that he is currently the best striker in Scotland. The ex-Motherwell forward spoke about Morelos as a “goal scorer”. Yet, that is doing him a disservice.
Up against the formidable presence of the returning Hearts captain Christophe Berra, he displayed why he is so important to Rangers and how he is much more than simply a “goal scorer”.
He worked tirelessly, closing down, getting his body between ball and defender, using his backside to back into defenders. Much to the anger of Levein and the Hearts support he barged, nudged and needled, pushing the limits.
Berra gave an insight in what it is like to play against him after the game.
“I’m sure he must have eyes in the back of his head. At every goal kick, he wasn’t looking at the ball, he was looking at me,” he said. “I like the physical battle, it doesn’t bother me. But when you do it five, six, seven times... That’s football, I’m not going to complain too much.
“But, when you are making that many fouls, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s one in the first half where I’ve headed the ball and he [Morelos] barged me. The ref said he’d headed the ball but I’m sure I quite clearly felt the ball hit my head. I don’t understand. I’m not going to indulge in sour grapes.
“I enjoyed it. I don’t mind it. Every time I’ve played against him, I’ve enjoyed the battle. There were fouls at both ends. There were goal kicks from McGregor, Morelos is turning to look me in the eye and trying to put me off. I won most of the balls, I didn’t lose any headers, so I think I came out on top. He scored a good goal – but it was offside.”
It is this aspect of playing on the edge, being on the verge of finding himself into the referee’s book or down the tunnel which makes him even more effective.
Rangers fans sing about not being liked and not caring, Morelos embodies that on the field. A player opposition fans love to hate and he feeds off it, waiting for the moment to give it back.
Up next are Aberdeen and the next big challenge in Scott McKenna. Get the better of him and he could fire himself into the record books outright and keep Rangers at the top of the table.