GOALS from Kemar Roofe and Alfredo Morelos secured a crucial three points for Rangers at St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership this afternoon.
The attacking duo struck in the first half to win the game for Steven Gerrard’s side, and while they could have added to their lead in the second half, Gers showed fine professionalism to keep the Saints at arms-length for a 17th clean sheet from 21 league matches.
Gerrard named two changes to his side for this afternoon’s Scottish Premiership match at St Mirren. From the team which defeated Hibs at Ibrox on Boxing Day, out went Leon Balogun and Ryan Kent, with their places in the XI taken by Fil Helander and Alfredo Morelos.
That meant at a freezing cold St Mirren Park, it was a back five of Allan McGregor in goal with James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Helander and Borna Barisic in front of him.
Glen Kamara, Steven Davis and Joe Aribo were in midfield, while up front, Kemar Roofe and Ianis Hagi supported Morelos.
It was St Mirren who had the first chance of the game inside the opening seconds as some slackness in defence from Gers allowed Jamie McGrath a shot from 25-yards which Allan McGregor, on his 400th appearance for the club, did well to hold.
Jon Obika then had an opportunity for the home side – McGrath’s shot was blocked by McGregor but Obika couldn’t work an angle to test the ‘keeper again and blasted over.
At the other end, Ianis Hagi had a free-kick effort from 20-yards slip wide of the target, before on 27 minutes, the deadlock was broken with Kemar Roofe’s eighth goal in his last eight league matches.
35-yards from goal, McGrath slipped and on him straight away to retrieve the loose ball was Ianis Hagi. The Romanian international had to show super strength to then hold off McGrath as he tried to recover, before slipping the ball through for Roofe.
With the aid of a slight deflection off Conor McCarthy, the ball looped up and over Jak Alnwick and into the back of the net to hand the visitors the goal they craved.
Five minutes later, it was 2-0. Joe Shaugnessy was desperately short with a back-pass to Alnwick, but alive to the opportunity was Alfredo Morelos.
He intercepted and one-on-one with his former Gers teammate, found the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Morelos then came close to a third, but headed a James Tavernier free-kick just wide on the stretch as Gers went into the interval with that two goal cushion.
Into the second half, and Obika of St Mirren was lucky to escape a red card when he caught Connor Goldson with an elbow, but a yellow card was the sum total of his punishment.
Morelos was then involved again, testing Alnwick from a tight angle, while Hagi couldn’t quite get an effort away from a similarly acute position on the rebound.
Rangers continued to keep control of the match, and Connor Goldson was next to come close on the end of a Borna Barisic corner, before the rebound was flicked goalwards by Roofe with McGrath clearing off the line.
Morelos then managed to put Hagi in to the right of goal – he cut it back across the face but there was nobody quite able to get on the end of his ball to find the third.
Sub Bongani Zungu had a fierce shot from distance charged down late-on, but 2-0 is how it finished, with the New Year Old Firm game next for Rangers on Saturday.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier (Balogun, 89), Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Aribo, Roofe (Kent, 74), Hagi (Zungu, 80), Morelos.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Defoe, Itten, Patterson, Barker.
ST MIRREN: Alnwick, Tait, Mason (Durmus, 77), Shaugnessy, McCarthy, Doyle-Hayes, Obika, McGrath (Dennis, 77), Connolly (McAllister, 82), Fraser, Erahon (MacPherson, 85)
SUBS: Flynn, Foley, Morais, Erwin, Lyness.
REFEREE: Alan Muir
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