Graeme Murty has praised Alfredo Morelos for keeping his focus in the wake of last week’s transfer speculation.
The Rangers boss admitted on Wednesday that his Colombian striker had been left “confused” by rumours linking him with a big-money move to Beijing Renhe after leaving him out of the William Hill Scottish Cup win at Fraserburgh.
But the 21-year-old was back in the side that took on Hibernian on Saturday after Murty managed to stave off three bids from the Far East.
And while Rangers were sunk 2-1 by Neil Lennon’s team, the Ibrox boss insisted that had nothing to do with Morelos’ week of on-off transfer speculation.
Murty said: “I thought he cut a frustrated figure at times because he was dealt with robustly.
“But he kept his focus. He had a goal chalked off and tried to do the right things and get in the right area.
“But for a couple of really good blocks he could have had a goal, so I thought he did OK.”
Rangers were looking to put some pressure on Celtic after the Hoops’ defeat at Kilmarnock but found themselves behind four minutes before half-time as Lennon’s team were rewarded for their energy and work-rate with a stunning John McGinn strike.
The hosts at Ibrox showed more hunger after the break but were denied an equaliser when Morelos had a header chalked off for offside.
And even when Sean Goss did draw them level with a deft free-kick after 73 minutes, the celebrations lasted just two minutes as James Tavernier’s barge on Scott Allan handed Jamie MacLaren the chance to put Hibs back in front from the spot, which he took emphatically as he beat Wes Foderingham.
Tavernier had told Murty after the match it was a soft award but after reviewing the footage admitted he got his challenge all wrong.
Posting on Twitter, Tavernier said: “Truly disappointed in myself that I let the team and fans down today. I thought it was a soft decision but I’ll always hold my hands up!”
Hibs’ triumph is all the more impressive given they were without an entire back four due to injuries but Lennon could not speak highly enough of teenage defender Ryan Porteous’ display.
“Incredible,” said the Northern Irishman. “He’s a man. We’ve got high hopes for him. He made one unbelievable block near the end.
“He’s still learning. He concedes a free-kick when he tries to bring it down on his chest instead of heading it clear, but to come into that environment and make his full league debut speaks volumes for him.”