Skipper James Tavernier celebrated his 400th competitive game for Rangers with the opening goal in a 3-1 Scottish Premiership win over Hibernian at Easter Road.
The Gers right-back beat Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall with a 30-yard free-kick in the 33rd minute and Ianis Hagi doubled the visitors’ lead in the 55th minute with his first goal since January 2022, before his long knee injury.
Todd Cantwell added a third in the 88th minute before Hibs defender Paul Hanlon reduced the deficit in added time.
The defeat leaves Lee Johnson’s side four points behind fourth-placed Hearts and six behind Aberdeen, with European places potentially up to fifth in the league provided Celtic beat Inverness in the final in the Scottish Cup.
Hibs host Celtic on Wednesday before the Edinburgh derby against Hearts on the final day of the season. Rangers, who are guaranteed second place, will finish the campaign with a home game against Hearts before traveling to St Mirren on the final day of the season.
Rangers were too strong for Hibs
Michael Beale already has a long injury list as he confirmed before the game that defender Connor Goldson will be out for 10 weeks, the problem undetermined. However, the Gers boss made just two changes to his starting line-up with Hagi for Rabbi Matondo and 19-year-old centre-back Leon King replacing Goldson on his first start. since November.
Tavernier troubled the Hibs defense with a series of early corners where defender John Souttar’s header came off the crossbar and King’s header was inadvertently blocked by Gers midfielder Ryan Jack.
Hibs, unchanged from last week’s draw at Aberdeen, worked their way into the game but Rangers remained the more dangerous side, a neat move ending in striker Fashion Sakala forcing a save from Marshall have a small drive.
The home side began to cope better with the Ibrox threat and in the 23rd minute striker Kevin Nisbet went close with a header from an Elie Youan cross, after the Hibs wideman had beaten Tavernier.
However, the Gers captain made a more marked impression on the game after Cantwell was fouled on the left by CJ Egan-Riley. With many expecting a cross into the middle, Tavernier latched onto the ball at the near post with Hibs captain Marshall crossing slowly and unable to keep the ball out of the net.
The Easter Road side took a long time to recover but could have leveled in the 41st minute when Nisbet’s wonderful curling pass found Josh Campbell at the back post but the midfielder could only hit the side- netting in part.
Early in the second half, Gers keeper Robby McCrorie, looking unconvinced, was out of position when Nisbet’s close-range header sailed over the post, before Scott Arfield replaced the injured Gers midfielder Nicholas Raskin.
Rangers’ second goal came from Tavernier’s long ball into the box headed by Sakala and although Hagi’s first effort was blocked by Hanlon – the ball appeared to hit the Hibs defender’s arm – the Romania international headed in the second attempt.
Marshall saved another effort from Sakala and at the other end, Nisbet headed substitute Ewan Henderson’s corner against the post – it just wasn’t Hibs’ day.
In the 79th minute, Marshall tipped a John Lundstram drive over the bar before Cantwell headed in from close range to seal the points after the Hibs’ keeper failed to deal with one Tavernier’s effort, with Hanlon scoring a consolation goal for the hosts when he headed over. in a corner of the third in four additional minutes.
Beale praised the ‘fantastic’ Rangers mentality
Rangers manager Michael Beale: “The mentality of the group today is amazing because the preparation couldn’t have been worse. We lost Alfredo [Morelos] and Glen Kamara to train on Saturday, Rabbi [Matondo] was on the bench but couldn’t continue, Scott Wright also lost us all night.
“Scott Arfield came on but played with a problem, so really coming into the game – and knowing Hibs are in such good form, unbeaten in four – I thought it was a interesting day for us. team.”
Johnson: European football is still a possibility
Hibernian manager Lee Johnson: “I think it is clear, because there is a potential fifth there as well. Celtic is a top team so you expect them to be super competitive in a cup final and we all in the mix hope that Celtic will win. game for that reason.
“But it’s going to be an important time for us in the next few days and that’s why we need everything.
Rangers host Hearts in their next Scottish Premiership game on Wednesday night, live on Sky Sports. Hibernian is in the house of Celtic the same night.
Both games start at 7:45 pm.