Hamilton Academical 0-2 Rangers: Visitors go three points clear at top

Hamilton Academical 0-2 Rangers: Visitors go three points clear at top
James Tavernier doubled Rangers’ lead with his first goal since last September

Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers moved three points clear and equalled a 114-year defensive record with a routine win at Hamilton Academical.

The scoreline flattered the 10-man hosts as Steven Gerrard’s side missed a succession of chances after early goals from Ianis Hagi and James Tavernier.

Rangers’ sixth consecutive clean sheet at the start of a top-flight campaign matches the feat of Celtic in 1906.

Hamilton had Scott McMann dismissed for a second yellow in 75 minutes.

Rangers go clear of Hibernian, who host Aberdeen on Sunday, while Hamilton are a point and a place above bottom club Motherwell.

Striker Alfredo Morelos, dropped last week amid continued interest from Lille, was back in the Rangers squad but didn’t make it off the bench.

Hamilton had won the previous meeting – a shock 1-0 success at Ibrox in March – but any prospect of a repeat was as artificial as the Lanarkshire pitch.

This was as easy as it gets for Rangers and two goals in quick succession killed the game as a contest inside 20 minutes.

Each time the danger came from the inside left channel. Steven Davis’ inswinging cross was headed off the underside of the bar by Kemar Roofe, allowing Hagi a simple finish for his first goal of the season.

Then Ryan Kent jinked past Scott Martin and cut back on to his right foot for a curling drive that Ryan Fulton could only parry into the path of Tavernier to knock home.

Rangers looked on for a rout. Instead, the spurned opportunities began piling up.

Roofe wasted two big chances either side of half-time, shanking wide after a lovely backheel set-up from Kent, then heading over from a delicious Borna Barisic delivery. The striker knew his luck was out when he was blatantly pushed in the back by McMann, with no penalty given.

Hagi twice came close after playing one-twos with livewire Kent, and Brandon Barker blasted into the side-netting from close range while Ryan Jack’s deflected half-volley spun against the post.

When Hamilton finally threatened in the final minutes, they nearly punished Rangers’ profligacy as Shaun Want’s header from a corner had to be clawed away by Jon McLaughlin.

McMann cynically halted a Barker breakaway to receive his marching orders, but Hamilton avoided further damage.

Man of the match – Ryan Kent

The attacking midfielder’s performance was full of menace and showed why Leeds United tried to entice him south with a £10m bid

What did we learn?

Rangers may rue not running up a bigger margin of victory. Their performance deserved more goals, but better composure is required when applying the final touch. Their creative fluency, though, allied to a rock-solid defence, is cause for optimism at Ibrox.

Hamilton deserve credit for staving off a heavy defeat, which could have sapped their young side’s morale. Fielding 18-year-olds Reegan Mimnaugh and Andrew Winter in midfield was a bold call by Brian Rice, and his team didn’t let their heads drop after the early goals.

What did they say?

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told Sky Sports: “We’re happy with the result and the performance. We need to be a bit more clinical and ruthless. We had loads of really good opportunities but that last moment where you need that bit of quality just wasn’t there.

What’s next?

Rangers return from the international break with a home match against Dundee United a week on Saturday, while Hamilton visit the side immediately above them, Livingston.

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