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Rangers 3-2 Hibernian: ‘Michael Beale gives convincing response to tough questions’

Alfredo Morelos' goal ultimately earned Rangers the victory over Hibernian
Alfredo Morelos’ goal ultimately earned Rangers the victory over Hibernian

At the break, the conversations around a stressed Ibrox might have had a similar tone.

Trailing 2-1 to an effervescent Hibernian – who spurned a brilliant chance to make it 3-1 – Rangers were in a hole. A night that was supposed to be a celebration of the new manager, Michael Beale, was looking decidedly iffy.

Rangers under Beale had looked uncannily like Rangers under Giovanni van Bronckhorst. So those conversations might have asked about Beale and what he could do about this. His first real test, 45 minutes into his reign.

Had it stayed 2-1, even the most faithful would have abandoned all hope of catching Celtic – or “the other team” as Beale referred to them last week and again in pre-match.

Rangers turned it around and left Ibrox in raptures. Doomsday had been averted. In his 23rd competitive game as a manager, Beale won his 10th victory.

It was deserved, but it was hard-won and that made a cold night red-hot. The Premiership returned and delivered a cracker.

Until the energy started to drain from their bodies, Hibs were wonderful. A team with a lousy recent record – six defeats in seven – and an even lousier head-to-head with their hosts went after the game with a vengeance.

Ryan Porteous nutted them ahead early on. How the Rangers defence – with the ill-fitting duo of James Sands and John Lundstram forced to play as centre-backs – could have missed him was quite something.

Porteous is about as missable at Ibrox as a giant bogey man, which is what he is. He rose in space and smashed a header past Allan McGregor from close range. It was his third goal in 10 games, a strike rate that anybody wearing blue on the night would gladly sign up for.

These minutes were frenetic and wildly entertaining. Fashion Sakala equalised and, while the ‘thank God for that’ looks were still visible on the faces of the home crowd, Kevin Nisbet made it 2-1.

Rangers were all energy and no cutting edge. Hibs didn’t have as much of the ball, but they had the better of the chances until it all turned.

There was local disgruntlement at the break. At the officials? At the combative Porteous? At their own team? Maybe all of those. Bottom line, the Bears were angry and were looking to see what Beale was made of.

They got their answer. Rangers put a vice around Hibs in the second half and never stopped squeezing. The visitors became jaded and vulnerable. Young Adam Devine, the teenage left-back, grew in strength. Malik Tillman emerged as the game’s most important player.

Tillman has flitted across the Rangers story this season, occasionally suggesting that he has plenty to offer, more than occasionally suggesting that maybe he doesn’t.

Beale’s coaching is his strongest suit and perhaps Tillman is going to be one of those who really benefit from it. “The players needed a smiley face,” said Beale beforehand. If Tillman was one of them, he produced when his manager really needed him.

Having assisted on Ryan Jack’s equaliser, Tillman then created Alfredo Morelos’ winner, seizing on James Tavernier’s through-ball and slaloming his way through before laying it on a plate for the striker, a man who needed a goal.

Calamity averted. The “other team” top the table by six points and not nine, which could have become a knockout 12 by the time they play Aberdeen on Saturday.

Rangers have mountains of work to do to make a fight of this, but at least they came up with a convincing response when questions were asked of them. Too often this season, they haven’t.

It was supposed to be Beale’s night and in the end it was. The new man is one out of one. Boos turned to riotous cheers. The treatment room is beginning to empty. A cavalry is coming over the hill.

Celtic won’t be bothered, but the weeks and months ahead will be interesting all the same.

RangersSourced From BBC

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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