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Rangers 3-0 St Johnstone: ‘Sloppy’ Ibrox side ease to top of Premiership

Highlights: Rangers 3-0 St Johnstone

Rangers moved to the top of the Scottish Premiership with a clinical win over St Johnstone but were accused of being “sloppy” by Steven Gerrard.

The manager was pleased with “three good goals”, describing Borna Barisic’s free-kick opener as “a piece of magic”.

Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo scored either side of the break, but Gerrard said: “We never played like a top team at 3-0 – we let the game fizzle out.”

Rangers nevertheless now lead Hibernian on goal difference with a 100% record.

“You probably think I’m a moaner, but even though we won the game comfortably 3-0, we can still learn a lot collectively and as individuals,” he said.

“Tonight was our fourth game in 11 days and I made a lot of subs in the second half, so I’ll take my part in the game going flat and sloppy. There are a lot of positives. I’m not complaining, I’m happy.”

Both go five points clear of reigning champions Celtic and could be 11 ahead by the time Neil Lennon’s side are back in action after having two games postponed following Boli Bolingoli’s Covid-19 lockdown indiscretion.

St Johnstone started like a side full of confidence and frustrated Rangers with five spread across the back. Not only was the ploy successful, but it gave them a base to probe for openings themselves.

The visitors created the first clear-cut chance as Callum Hendry turned centre-half Leon Balogun inside and out, but the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin denied the striker’s low drive.

Rangers were struggling to find space but were presented with a chance when David Wotherspoon tripped Alfredo Morelos 18 yards out and Barisic curled the free-kick away from goalkeeper Elliot Parish.

Just when St Johnstone were thinking of regrouping at half-time, Rangers extended their lead, Barisic the provider with a low cross that gave Kent the chance to score on the turn.

Two chances created, two goals and Rangers came out with much more freedom after the break. Morelos had a shot parried wide and Aribo’s head supplied the touch at the resulting corner.

On-loan Millwall striker Isaac Olaofe forced a fine save from McLaughlin, but by then the game was already won.

Man of the match – Borna Barisic

Borna Barisic (right) opened the scoring and set up the second goal

What did we learn?

As with the second half of last season, Rangers are not finding it easy to create chances against packed defences, but this time they are being more ruthless with their finishing.

They have signed two strikers amid fears of losing Morelos, but holding on to Barisic might be just as crucial to their title aspirations. The Croatia full-back’s left foot engineered the breakthrough goal, then supplied the pass for the second, and it is no wonder that he too has admirers at other clubs.

St Johnstone looked a bit bedraggled by the end, but they did enough in the first half to suggest that they will again prove to be a difficult side to score against this season.

What did they say?

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “David Wotherspoon gave away a free-kick for the first goal – you can’t give away stupid free-kicks at Ibrox. He knows that himself.

“I thought we limited Rangers to very few chances in that first half, but we went in 2-0 down. The message was to not concede early doors in the second half, but we lost a goal to a set-play and the game was over.”

What’s next?

Rangers head to Livingston on Sunday knowing a win would move them eight clear of Celtic already. Kilmarnock are St Johnstone’s hosts a day earlier, with both sides still seeking their first league win.

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