Match Report: Rangers 2-0 St Johnstone

RANGERS maintained their unbeaten run with Michael Beale at the helm as the Light Blues ran out 2-0 winners over St. Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership at Ibrox this afternoon.

The Gers created no shortage of openings throughout the 90 minutes, with James Tavernier’s penalty separating the team’s at the interval.

Glen Kamara then doubled his side’s advantage shortly after the restart, capping off a dominant display from the Gers to extend their winning run to five games on the spin.

Michael Beale named two changes to his Light Blues side for the visit of the Perth outfit, with Todd Cantwell making his first start in a Rangers jersey after arriving at the club on Monday evening.

There was also a first appearance in the matchday squad in over a year for Ianis Hagi, with the midfielder making a welcome return from injury after last featuring for the club against Stirling Albion in the Scottish Cup last season.

The fixture also marked the club’s annual Armed Forces Day celebrations at Ibrox and the club were delighted to be welcoming 150 armed services personnel to the match.

Rangers began on the front foot in the contest, with Malik Tillman and Alfredo Morelos combining to good effect down the inside right channel. The Colombian unleashed a shot at goal that drew a fine stop from Remi Matthews in the St. Johnstone goal with only five minutes having elapsed.

Morelos threatened again only seven minutes later, latching onto a slide rule pass from Ryan Kent after the winger had produced a gorgeous stepover to engineer space as Matthews denied the forward with his feet at the near post.

The Light Blues were beginning to build a head of steam in the game, and they broke the deadlock on 13 minutes from the penalty spot. Borna Barisic delivered a searching cross towards Connor Goldson as Rangers kept the big men up from the corner, with the Englishman’s flick striking the hand of Liam Gordon. James Tavernier made no mistake from 12 yards, lifting his spot-kick high above the diving Matthews to rubber stamp Rangers’ authority.

It was Morelos who was once again bearing down on the visiting goal just moments later, timing his run to perfection to meet Glen Kamara’s through pass. Matthews was able to narrow the distance to goal by racing off his line quickly as he denied the forward’s curling finish.

Threatening attacks were few and far between for the Perth side, although they worried Allan McGregor briefly when Nicky Clark flicked over from Melker Hallberg’s cross.

A sweeping move from the home side almost manufactured a second goal of the afternoon. Ryan Jack picked out Tillman in acres of space on the right-hand side as the USA international immediately centred for Ryan Kent to run onto the pass and draw a diving save from Matthews.

The match took a twist in the 33rd minute as St. Johnstone were reduced to ten men. Clark, who had earlier gone close for the away side, was dismissed for a reckless challenge on Jack in the centre of the pitch.

Matthews in the St. Johnstone goal appeared on a personal mission to prevent the Gers from extending their lead in the first half, denying the home side once again as Tavernier’s pinpoint free-kick from the edge of the penalty area looked destined for the top corner.

Callum Davidson’s men almost equalised against the run of play on the stroke of the interval. A darting run from Drey Wright broke the offside trap but, after rounding McGregor, the winger contrived to lose his footing before he could steer his finish towards goal.

The crowning moment for the debutant Cantwell very nearly arrived shortly into the second period. The Gers worked the ball well down the left as Kent released Barisic on the overlap; the Croatian pulled the ball back into path of the midfielder, but he spooned his left-footed finish narrowly over the crossbar.

Matthews was proving the thorn in Rangers’ side, thwarting Kent after a terrific sweeping move from the Gers that allowed Tillman to stab a perfectly weighted through pass into the Englishman’s path.

However, Rangers’ persistence was rewarded once more four minutes shy of the hour mark. It was another move of supreme quality as Cantwell fired a pass into Morelos who, dropping off the forward line, flicked the ball around the corner and onto Kamara breaking beyond the St. Johnstone defensive line. The midfielder steadied himself into the penalty area and dispatched a cool finish beyond Matthews to double the Light Blues’ advantage.

Fashion Jr. entered the fray in place of the impressive Cantwell shortly after, with the Zambian going close to stretching Rangers’ advantage further when he was released by Lundstram on the counter-attack and he fired a dangerous effort at Matthews’ goal.

The Ibrox crowd was then brought to its feet on 71 minutes as Hagi made his long-awaited return, replacing Tillman who had caused St. Johnstone issues aplenty throughout the afternoon.

Rangers continued to attack with a purpose as Fashion Jr. almost caught out Matthews at his near post following a cute reverse pass from Hagi on the edge of the danger area.

There was time for one last attack from the home side before referee Willie Collum brought an end to proceedings, with the Gers now shifting their attention towards Hearts and a visit to Tynecastle on Wednesday evening.

RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Davies, Barisic, Jack (Lundstram, 45), Kamara, Tillman (Hagi, 71), Cantwell (Fashion Jr., 61), Kent (Wright, 71), Morelos (Colak, 71)

Subs not used: McLaughlin, Sands, Arfield, Devine

ST. JOHNSTONE: Matthews, Gordon, Considine, Brown, Montgomery, Wright (Carey, 80), MacPherson, Phillips (Wotherspoon, 80), Hallberg (May, 73), Clark, McLennan (Crawford, 88)

Subs not used: Parish, Mitchell, Wotherspoon, Carey, Bair, Murphy, O’Halloran

REFEREE: Willie Collum

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