How Rangers’ title challenge to Celtic faltered in 6 games

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Rangers welcome Aberdeen to Ibrox in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay with the competition offering the best chance of silverware this campaign.

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Steven Gerrard has seen his Rangers side slip up too many times this season in the league. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy

Steven Gerrard has seen his Rangers side slip up too many times this season in the league. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy

Steven Gerrard’s men had the chance to close the gap to Celtic to five points on Friday with an Old Firm clash on the horizon. However, despite dominating large spells of the encounter with Hibs, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw as they remained eight points behind Celtic once all fixtures had taken place.

Afterwards the Rangers boss admitted that the dropped points “damages” the club’s title aspirations.

Gerrard said: “Maybe (the title) was already out of reach. I don’t know. You can get away with a performance like this once a season, twice if you’re lucky.

“When you are chasing a team who have won seven trophies out of the last seven, you can’t have five or six like this.”

The ex-Liverpool midfielder noted the three draws with Hibs, as well as dropped points against both Dundee and St Jonhnstone. However, aspirations of the title bid also faltered elsewhere.

Livingston 1 - 0 Rangers - 30 September

The Ibrox side travelled to the Tony Macaroni Arena knowing three points would have lifted them into second place, five points behind then league leaders Hearts.

Confidence was high having hit nine goals in their previous two outings, a 4-0 win over Dundee and 5-1 success against St Johnstone.

It was the home side, however, who continued their excellent start to the season with a deserved win. They started the game the brightest with Rangers unable to deal with their direct and physical threat.

When they got ahead and Rangers further dominated possession they rarely looked troubled.

Gerrard said: “Credit to Livingston, they deserved it. We didn’t create enough and the one thing you don’t want to do now as a player is play your way out of the team.”

Rangers 0 - 1 Aberdeen - 5 December

Following a 2-1 success at Tynecastle a few days prior to the visit of seventh-place Aberdeen, Rangers went top of the Premiership for the first time under Gerrard.

Ibrox was rocking as the hopes of a sustained title push gathered momentum. That lasted for around seven minutes when Scott McKenna fired the Dons in front.

Even with the sending off of Sam Cosgrove for the visitors just after the half-hour mark, the home side lacked inspiration with Joe Lewis on top form when called upon.

Alfredo Morelos’ red card in the second half summed up what was a frustrating evening. It was compounded further a few days later when Rangers laboured to a 1-1 draw against ten-man Dundee.

“It’s difficult to win matches when you have too many players off it,” Gerrard said. “We’ve punched above our weight in certain games and 90 minutes ago we were top of the league.”

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Rangers 1 - 1 Hibernian - 26 December

For the second time in the space of a week Rangers drew with their rivals.

This particular draw stung more with Darren McGregor heading in a late equaliser to cancel out Alfredo Morelos’ opener.

The share of the spoils prevented the Ibrox side from going into the Old Firm derby a few days later knowing a win would take them top of the table outright.

Gerrard said: “We’re reliant on Alfredo at the moment, too much. I’ve asked other people to stand up and be counted and opportunities did present themselves to kill the game off and we paid the price for that.”

Kilmarnock 2 - 1 Rangers - 23 January

Steven Gerrard and his men returned to league action buoyed. They had entered the winter break on the back of a 1-0 win over Celtic and level on points at the top of the table with their rivals.

In addition they had added the not inconsiderable talent of Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis.

Yet, that presented a problem. Gerrard changed the personnel and system which earned success over Celtic with the experienced duo starting in a 4-4-2 diamond.

They took the lead through Defoe early on and seemed in the mood to finish the game as a contest as soon as possible, only for Joe Worrall to present Killie with an easy route back into the game.

The home side grabbed the winner in the second half with a goal which screamed narrative. Jordan Jones, who had signed a pre-contract agreement with Rangers, netting from distance.

Not only did Rangers fall three points behind Rangers they dropped to third behind Killie.

“The table won’t look nice. We’ll be criticised, rightly so,” Gerrard said. “We had an awful lot of praise three weeks ago and rightly but tonight we weren’t at it all over the pitch.”

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Rangers 0 - 0 St Johnstone - 16 February

Following three league wins and 11 goals after the Killie defeat, Rangers could have reduced the gap to the top of the league to three points with a win over their Perth visitors.

But they had to try and do so without top scorer Alfredo Morelos.

What followed was a game which strengthened the idea in some quarters that Rangers are a one man team with the Colombian.

The home side huffed and puffed with former Gers goalkeeper Cammy Bell rarely tested and in the end they were lucky not to get defeated with Blair Alston hitting the bar for St Johnstone.

“Right now forget titles and forget closing gaps,” he said. “The reality is to perform like that across the board in front of 50,000, well there’s your evidence.”

Hibernian 1 - 1 Rangers - 8 March

Hibs’ Twitter account best summed it up: “...How?”

Rangers dominated for so long but in the end could have lost the game. In a way it encapsulated the league season so far under Steven Gerrard.

They looked a class apart but lacked the ruthlessness when it mattered. Then when Hibs hit back they seemed paralysed and were on the verge of chucking it away, unable to regain that composure and turn the game back in their favour.

“We’re leaving here very frustrated but we’ve got ourselves to blame,” Gerrard said. “We were very excellent first 45 minutes, very dominant, created chance after chance, but we weren’t clinical and ruthless enough. We only managed to get one goal but the game should have been done.”