Early strikes see Rangers home
Rangers defeated Dundee United 2-1 at Tannadice this afternoon thanks to two first-half goals in a game that was won much more comfortably than the final scoreline would suggest.
Manager Walter Smith made no fewer than seven changes from the title-winning side at Easter Road with Neil Alexander, Andrew Little, Kirk Broadfoot, Steven Smith, John Fleck, Nacho Novo and Kris Boyd replacing Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker, Lee McCulloch, Sasa Papac (suspended), Steve Davis, Kenny Miller and Kyle Lafferty.
Remarkably this was Rangers' fifth visit of the season to Tannadice - and, wearing all-white, they could scarcely have got off to a better start than to open the scoring in two minutes when in a swift counter-attack Fleck found Boyd who swept the ball into the net.
It was the striker's 100th League goal for Rangers - and his first since February 14th.
The Ibrox men were on top in these opening exchanges - and might have had a second in twelve minutes when a Naismith - Novo move found Fleck on the left, his low drive being cleared off the line by Garry Kenneth.
There was an injury blow for the Light Blues in 28 minutes when Kevin Thomson went off with a head knock to be replaced by DaMarcus Beasley.
Seven minutes later Novo hared down the right from a Boyd flick and from his cross the centre scooped the ball into the arms of home goalkeeper Dusan Pernis.
Novo himself made it 2-0 in 41 minutes with a superb solo run from the halfway line, finishing with a low drive into the corner of the net.
There might even have been a third before the interval - from a Novo - Naismith move Boyd went down under a challenge from Craig Hill only for Referee Stevie O'Reilly to turn away all penalty claims.
Rangers restarted on the offensive - Naismith's twenty-yard wide-angled free-kick being held by Pernis.
There was a distinct lack of action during much of the second-half with the Champions content to sit on their two-goal lead.
Whittaker replaced Smith in 77 minutes - but two minutes later United suddenly reduced the deficit when from a Ryan Dow corner Damian Casalinuovo's goalbound header was touched home by David Robertson.
Suddenly from being so far ahead Rangers were now under pressure - but Boyd was inches away from restoring their two-goal lead two minutes later when he stabbed the ball wide from a Fleck pass.
David Robertson threatened a second goal in 82 minutes when his flick from Kenneth's driven cross was held by Alexander.
Boyd did have the ball in the net from a Novo pass three 85 minutes later only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.
Rangers played out time however content with their narrow lead - and afterwards Walter Smith summed up:
"We were delighted to win. We played very well in the first-half and created lots of chances. We showed a terrific attitude and handled the pressure well late in the game. I was delighted for Kris Boyd that he managed to get his 100th goal."
DUNDEE UNITED Pernis; Watson, Kenneth, Hill, Dillon; D. Robertson, Buaben (S. Robertson 58), Gomis, Smith (Shala 68); Cadamarteri (Dow 10), Casalinuovo
UNUSED SUBS Banks, Conway, Daly, Mihadjuks
RANGERS Alexander; Little, Broadfoot, Weir, Smith (Whittaker 77); Naismith. Edu, Thomson (Beasley 28), Fleck; Novo, Boyd (Lafferty 86)
UNUSED SUBS McGregor, McCulloch, Davis, Bendiksen
REFEREE Stevie O'Reilly