Rangers thrash Ross County to extend lead at top to 23 points

Rangers celebrated Steven Gerrard’s 150th game as manager by stretching their Scottish Premiership lead to 23 points after thumping Ross County.

Poor marking allowed Ryan Kent and Filip Helander to head the home side into a healthy lead before Joe Aribo’s fine finish before half-time.

Ryan Jack scored his return from injury before Connor Goldson’s headed finish.

They could even afford a missed penalty from James Tavernier as they remain unbeaten in the league this season.

County struck woodwork twice after the break, but by then Rangers were well on their way to their ninth win in a row over the side who remain third bottom of the table.

John Hughes’ side had arrived buoyed by last week’s 4-1 thumping of Aberdeen, but they never looked in danger of spoiling the occasion for Gerrard as he became the fastest-ever Rangers manager to reach his 150th game in charge – his 926 days beating Dick Advocaat by 24 hours.

By bravely handing 17-year-old Leo Hjelde – signed on loan from Celtic 24 hours earlier – his debut and dropping winger Regan Charles-Cooke and forward Jermaine Hylton, Hughes had signalled his intent to keep it tight.

County’s high press did manage to trouble Rangers – but only for the six minutes it took for the hosts to score with their first foray into the Highlanders’ box.

Hjelde was too late on the scene as Kent looped in a finish after being found unmarked by Alfredo Morelos’ header across the face of goal.

Top scorer Tavernier blotted his copybook by having a weak spot kick saved by Ross Laidlaw, although justice was probably done as Morelos looked to be fouled outside the area.

Rangers remained relentless and Kent fired a low effort against a post before Helander shrugged off his marker to rise in space and head home a Borna Barisic corner.

The defending was similarly poor as Aribo sidestepped Charlie Lakin and Iain Vigurs before a sublime curling finish.

County started the second half with plenty of purpose and midfielder Harry Paton sent a low drive off the inside of a post and centre-half Alex Iacovitti should have done better than loop a header off the bar when found unmarked at a free-kick.

Gerrard responded with a clutch of substitutions and one of the replacements, Jack, fired low past Laidlaw before Goldson rounded off the scoring with a stooping header from a corner.

It was perhaps a fitting flourish considering the centre-half has featured in 142 of Gerrard’s games in charge.

Man of the match – Ryan Kent

What did we learn?

If reigning champions Celtic were hoping that last weekend’s draw with Motherwell, which ended a run of six straight wins, would knock Rangers out of their stride, they were sadly disappointed.

Neil Lennon will have found little grounds for renewed optimism about securing a 10th consecutive title from an efficient performance with few signs of the post-New Year stumbles suffered by Gerrard’s side in the last two seasons.

County came into the game after a mini-revival, having only lost once in four games, but former Celtic centre-half Hughes will consider this dismantling of his experimental defence in isolation.

Especially so considering Dingwall men have never beaten Rangers in 15 meetings and now have failed to score in their last six meetings.

What they said

Rangers manger Steven Gerrard tells Rangers TV: „I thought it was a really strong performance, another home win and a clean sheet – obviously five different scorers.

„We flipped the formation a bit to a 4-3-2-1 to be a bit more bold and aggressive and really take the game to Ross County and I thought we looked really dangerous throughout.“

Ross County manager John Hughes tells Sky Sports: „We were set up to be hard to beat and, if you do that and give away two poor goals early on, you are up against it.

„However, our season will not be defined by games against Rangers – credit to them for the way they play football and pass – but we showed plenty of spirit and will learn from this.“

What’s next?

Rangers next travel to Edinburgh to face fourth-top Hibernian on Wednesday (19:45 GMT), when County also host Motherwell.

bbc sport

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