Gio van Bronckhorst claimed his fourth consecutive league victory as Rangers beat Hearts at 10
Alfredo Morelos and Joe Aribo scored the vital goals that knocked out the wrestling Jambos and extend the champions’ lead to seven points at the top.
Josh Ginnelly received his marching orders in the later stages after securing a second reservation in an angry clash with Borna Barisic.
The hosts started off brilliantly as Liam Boyce moved through the Rangers defense as a single ball from Peter Haring separated Connor Goldson and Calvin Bassey. The Northern Irishman lifted the ball over Allan McGregor’s head, but the reverse stopper tipped the ball over the bar.
Momentum was building in front of a thunderous Tynecastle crowd, but Morelos pulled the mat under Robbie Neilson’s side.
Fashion Sakala’s quick feet on the right flank allowed the striker to glide the ball through the box, and the Colombian shot the ball into the net.
Sakala then had her own luck finding space on the right side of the box, with Hearts’ defenders left rooted in place. The Zambian narrowly shot his shot off the post from the tight angle.
It was two moments later, however, as Aribo scooped Goldson’s long ball back with a delicate touch and let Craig Halkett chase after the shadows. The playmaker easily beat his man and sent the ball into Craig Gordon’s net.
After the break, Hearts looked to start their comeback and Mackay-Steven offered them some early encouragement for his curling effort from the tight angle of the right wing. McGregor was vigilant in swinging the ball over the bar and keeping the deficit down to two.
Josh Ginnelly was closest as his cross deflected from Bassey and caught up with McGregor, but the ball somehow stayed out of the net as the effort slipped out from below the bar.
Moments later, the Rangers came close to third as a smart pass from Morelos crossed the brown backline and allowed Scott Arfield to sidestep the offside trap. Gordon got up well and blocked the low drive.
Sakala then tested the 38-year-old if he cut on the inside and punched a strain on the target, and the stopper threw the thunderbolt into Arfield’s path. However, Gordon was the first to react and take the ball away from the striker.
Arfield then blurted out a big chance to seal the win as Morelos addressed the ball into midfield. Gordon was caught in no man’s land after throwing himself at the winger’s feet, but he missed the shot with the gaping goal.
Free kick specialist Stephen Kingsley then broke the bar as Hearts tried to gain a foothold in the game. The 30-yard curling effort seemed to have beaten McGregor, but the bar saved the Rangers’ cage.
Things turned from bad to worse in the last 10 minutes for Hearts as Ginnelly faced Barisic while already on a yellow card. The winger rushed into a scramble match after Cammy Devlin’s tackle on the Croatian and referee Nick Walsh booked the two men.
Hearts were still pounding as substitute Ben Woodburn made a low effort towards McGregor’s bottom corner. The veteran placed the ball in Boyce’s path, but recovered to stop the rebound tucked away in the lower corner.
Gio’s main man
Before the arrival of Gio van Bronckhorst, Alfredo Morelos was struggling to regain form. The Colombian didn’t prove to be a problem for defenders and, more importantly, struggled to find the net. Now the striker seems to have found a new lease of life under the Dutchman. Whether he’s responding to criticism from the start of the season or looking to impress the new boss, something has changed for the forward. He caused trouble for Halkett and Souttar all afternoon and grabbed the key chance to open the scoring. It’s four goals in five games since van Bronckhorst arrived and he looks to be back to his best.
Aribo shines in the capital
Joe Aribo has always been in the Premiership this season and is by far the most consistent. He is one of the few players to have surpassed his levels since winning the title last season and pulling the strings once again at Tynecastle. His careful play allowed Sakala to prepare for Morelos’ opener and then incredibly talented to reclaim Goldson’s pass for his own goal. The Nigeria international will undoubtedly grab the attention of potential suitors if he maintains those performance levels before the January window.
No defense for Jambos
An early flurry of Robbie Neilson’s men was quickly quashed by the league leaders as they tightened their grip on first place. Morelos and Aribo’s double took Jambos’ sails breathless and they never started after the first 20 minutes. They relied heavily on dramatic saves from Gordon to keep the score just two in a gentle display of the brown wall at the back. Although they have always looked like a threat to the future, the manager has some food for thought ahead of Dundee next week