Rangers 1-0 Hibernian: James Tavernier sends Ibrox rocking with sublime free-kick

  • James Tavernier whipped in the winning free-kick after 65 minutes
  • Rangers have gone six matches unbeaten under manager Mark Warburton
  • The Ibrox side go top above Queen of the South of goal difference

Not very easy, exactly. But winning games has to be a whole lot simpler when you’ve got a dead-ball expert of such strength and skill as James Tavernier on your side.

The Rangers right-back, a free-kick scorer against Hibs in the Petrofac Training Cup rout at Easter Road before the Championship season had even kicked off, reprised his party piece to settle this league encounter between the sides at Ibrox.

And what a strike it was. From way out on the left wing, at a seemingly impossible angle, he swung his right boot at the ball with such pace and aim — imparting the kind of top-spin of which Rafa Nadal would’ve been proud — that it soared over everyone, including Hibs keeper Mark Oxley, dipping to bulge the side net on the far side of the target. 

James Tavernier roars in celebration having fired in a free-kick which ended up as the winning goal

James Tavernier roars in celebration having fired in a free-kick which ended up as the winning goal

Here's the scene from behind the Hibernian goal as James Tavernier's second-half free-kick sailed in

Here's the scene from behind the Hibernian goal as James Tavernier's second-half free-kick sailed in

James Tavernier sprints away in celebration having whipped in a delightful free-kick for Rangers

James Tavernier sprints away in celebration having whipped in a delightful free-kick for Rangers

‘I wasn’t surprised he took it on from there,’ said Rangers boss Mark Warburton. ‘I’ve seen him hit all parts of the training ground. He’s a bit scattergun in his approach at times, to be honest with you!

‘But he’s got real quality in that right boot of his. It was a tremendous goal. He’s a very talented player and I’m pleased for him.’

Coming after 66 minutes, with Hibs weakened by the loss of right-back David Gray earlier in the second half, it was a goal worthy of winning this meeting between two teams expected to fill the top couple of spaces in the table come the end of the season.

With the gap between them now already at six points, though, it’s hard to class Alan Stubbs’ men as title contenders at the moment. Even at this stage, the prospect of Rangers opening up Light Blue water between themselves and their most obvious rivals seems a little ominous.

Oh, and stop us if you’ve heard this one before, Hibs fans. But, although the visitors created more than enough chances to win this game, they failed to convert.

Rangers, too, were a little profligate when presented with opportunities to make the rest of the afternoon more comfortable. Despite failing to grant Warburton’s incessant demand for more and more goals in every game, though, they could ultimately reflect on a day when they answered more than a few tricky questions posed by their opponents.

It certainly proved more difficult than another capacity crowd might have expected, with the home fans baying for blood after Stubbs had claimed Warburton’s rebuilding job was ‘very easy’ because of the money he had to call upon.

Rangers' Barrie McKay and Hibernian's David Gray vie for possession during the Championship clash

Rangers' Barrie McKay and Hibernian's David Gray vie for possession during the Championship clash

The opening exchanges, if we can call them that, must have had most of the visiting support wondering why Stubbs had even inadvertently poked the Bears. Playing with a pace that Hibs could not match, harrying and forcing their opponents into errors of rushed judgment, Rangers flew into the fray with obvious intent.

All of the usual threats were in evidence, from Tavernier nutmegging defenders and linking well with Kenny Miller on the right, to the ever-reliable Lee Wallace bombing down the left.

A horribly over-hit Fraser Fyvie back-pass nearly saw the home side go ahead within the opening 10 minutes, Oxley failing to control and inviting a challenge from Martyn Waghorn, who couldn’t quite take advantage.

Rangers goal keeper Wes Foderingham saves a shot as the Ibrox side went back top of the league table

Rangers goal keeper Wes Foderingham saves a shot as the Ibrox side went back top of the league table

Martyn Waghorn of Rangers makes another foray forward during the clash with Hibernian on Sunday 

Martyn Waghorn of Rangers makes another foray forward during the clash with Hibernian on Sunday 

When Waghorn headed over the bar from a Barrie McKay corner soon after, the huge home contingent bayed in anticipation of an apparently inevitable opener, which they hoped would only be the precursor to another hammering of the Hibs.

That Rangers weren’t able to simply over-run the visitors is a testament to the collective effort, and astute management, carried out to stifle and stymie a home side which was in full, but not unstoppable, flight.

Hibs closed down McKay completely, more or less negated the impact of Tavernier and generally just organised themselves into a more effective unit.

Had they been blessed with a striker of more composure, they might well have scored two goals before half-time.

Both chances fell to Jason Cummings. For the first, he barely connected with his attempted hitch-kick on a deflected Danny Carmichael cross. His second chance came at the end of a move he had effectively started himself, holding up the ball and finding John McGinn, whose killer pass down the right set up Martin Boyle for a perfect low cross.

Having made up ground to put himself in a perfect position between the central defenders, Cummings never really caught hold of his shot, allowing Wes Foderingham to make a straightforward save.

Lee Wallace races through to try and slot home a second for Rangers but couldn't hit the target

Lee Wallace races through to try and slot home a second for Rangers but couldn't hit the target

Rangers were a team renewed and rejigged after the break and, when Gray went down in a heap, the introduction of a returning Dylan McGeouch — the former Celtic kid playing as an emergency right-back — opened up an obvious target area for the home side.

His concession of a hotly-contested free-kick for handball provided all the invitation Tavernier needed.

The noise that erupted when he scored said everything about how important this game was to Rangers.

Warburton was far from satisfied with the overall performance of his team and, watching events unfold after the goal, it’s obvious why. Hibs’ Liam Henderson, who had been done no favours by a lazy Cummings pass when he might have converted a two-on-one just before the goal, missed an easier chance soon after.

Rangers manager Mark Warburton applauds the home crowd at Ibrox following the narrow victory 

Rangers manager Mark Warburton applauds the home crowd at Ibrox following the narrow victory 

Stubbs left Ibrox bemoaning the ‘six or seven’ chances his team had passed on, trying to put a brave face on the deficit that now separates the Edinburgh club from the one automatic promotion spot.

Even at this early stage, closing that gap appears far from an easy task. 

 

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