Hibernian 1 (McManus 45)
Rangers remain at the top of the League following a narrow 2-1 win over Hibernian at Ibrox this afternoon, but the Ibrox men made incredibly hard work of a game they should have had wrapped up in the opening fifteen minutes.
There were three changes in the home side's starting eleven from Thursday night with Lorenzo Amoruso, Claudio Caniggia and Shota Arveladze replacing Bert Konterman, Stephen Hughes and Peter Lovenkrands. Arveladze partnered Michael Mols up front for the first time this season.
A one-minute silence to mark Remembrance Sunday was immaculately observed, as indeed it would be throughout the United Kingdom with one exception - any game involving Celtic.
Rangers made a whirlwind start with Michael Mols firing a left-foot shot from a Barry Ferguson pass just wide of the target inside the opening minute.
Four minutes later a sweeping attack down the right cut open the visitors' defence - Fernando Ricksen feeding Mikel Arteta who released Maurice Ross, a low cross to Arveladze saw the Georgian's effort denied by Nick Colgan.
There was only one team in it - inside the next two minutes an Amoruso header from an Arteta corner was just too high, then the Italian defender's chip found
Arveladze who showed delightful skill in taking the ball on his chest before turning and hitting it on the volley - again just over.
A goal was inevitable - and it duly arrived in ten minutes when Arveladze released Ricksen down the right, a low cross into the middle being fired home by Mols off the underside of the bar.
There was no stopping Rangers - it should have been 2-0 in 22 minutes when an Arteta cross was dropped by Colgan right at the feet of Caniggia, only for the Argentinian to scoop the loose ball over the crossbar.
A shocking decision by Referee Mike McCurry on the half-hour denied Rangers a second goal when Caniggia was upended on the edge of the box, the ball breaking to Arveladze who shot home only for the official to bring play back for the award of a free-kick TO Rangers. So much for the advantage rule.
Four minutes later it was 2-0 however when Ricksen's drive was parried by Colgan, Caniggia's effort from the rebound being blocked before falling for Arveladze who found the net with an exquisite back-heel.
Such was the Rangers' superiority throughout the opening forty-five minutes that even a 2-0 lead was scant consolation, yet on the stroke of half-time a
long ball forward from Colgan was nodded on by Mixu Paatelainen, allowing Tom McManus to take advantage of indecisiveness in the home defence to find the net and reduce the deficit.
From the restart it was all too apparent that the second-half would be a different matter as Hibs took heart from their goal. Indeed Garry O'Connor almost levelled matters five minutes in when his twenty-yard angled drive produced a one-handed save from Klos.
Rangers suffered two injury blows inside the space of minutes, losing both Lorenzo Amoruso and Mikel Arteta who were replaced by Bert Konterman and Stephen Hughes.
Midway through the second half Caniggia too was the subject of an enforced substitution, being replaced by Russell Latapy.
The Light Blues were under some pressure as the second-half developed, perhaps suffering a reaction from Thursday's League Cup-tie. However a series of bizarre offside decisions against the home side did little to soothe the nerves of the 48,798 crowd inside Ibrox.
Hibernian had a loud appeal for a penalty in 75 minutes when both Konterman and Paatelainen rose to meet a cross, claiming handball against the defender,
but if there was contact it can hardly have been deliberate.
Rangers finished the stronger. Latapy created room on the left and cut the defence wide open with a clever curling cross that alas was inches away from the inrushing Arveladze and Hughes, then with the last kick of the ball a Barry Ferguson free-kick was touched wide by Colgan.
Manager Alex McLeish was realistic in his post-match summary:
"You must remember the disruptions to the team caused by injury. We made a fantastic start but lost a goal due to basic errors. We're happy just to get the three points."
Hibs' Manager Bobby Williamson saw it differently:
"We're disappointed to lose. We were denied a stonewall penalty, but you get absolutely nothing against the 'Old Firm'."
You must have been at a different game from me, Bobby.
RANGERS Klos; Ross, Amoruso (Konterman 52), Malcolm, Numan; Ricksen, Ferguson, Arteta (Hughes 57); Caniggia (Latapy 66), Mols, Arveladze
UNUSED SUBS McGregor, Dodds
HIBERNIAN Colgan; Smith, Zambernardi, Fenwick, James; McManus, Orman (O'Neil 66), Brebner, Wiss; Paatelainen, O'Connor (Luna 62)
UNUSED SUBS Caig, Jack, Kouo-Doumbe
REFEREE Mike McCurry