Rangers thrash Hibs to reduce Celtic lead
Rangers took advantage of Celtic's involvement in the League Cup to reduce the gap at the top of the Scottish Premier League to a single point with a comprehensive 4-0 win over ten men Hibernian at Ibrox.
Steven Davis gave Rangers a first half lead with a fine breakaway goal before his Northern Irish international colleague David Healy took advantage of a defensive error to make it 2-0 just after the break.
New Hibernian captain James McPake had a debut to forget as he saw red in the 71st minute for his second bookable offence.
Sone Aluko curled the resulting free-kick past Mark Brown and Davis added a fourth late on to seal the win.
Celtic, who have a game in hand on the Gers, face Falkirk in the League Cup semi-final on Sunday.
At Ibrox, both sides were without their top scorers as Nikica Jelavic missed out through injury for Rangers while Hibs pair Gary O'Connor and Leigh Griffiths began suspensions.
Healy was the lone striker for Rangers in the absence of Jelavic but the Northern Irishman was more of a hindrance than a help in the opening minutes when he got in the way of Aluko's goalward strike to divert it out for a goal kick.
On-loan Coventry City defender McPake's first contribution to the game was to pick up a booking in the seventh minute for pulling the shirt of Aluko.
Hibernian had a great chance in the 13th minute when Eoin Doyle was sent clean through on goal but Kyle Bartley showed great determination to race back to make a crucial block as the Irishman pulled the trigger.
Maurice Edu fizzed a strike just wide after good set-up play from Aluko before Rangers took a 27th-minute lead after they quickly turned defence into attack. Allan McGregor's quick throw out to Edu was then played to Aluko and the Nigerian then played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Davis, who raced in on goal and curled his low shot past Brown.
A mix-up in the Hibs defence allowed Rangers to double their lead in the 55th minute. Keeper Brown failed to deal with a weak headed back pass and dropped the ball at the feet of Healy at the edge of the box who turned and fired a low shot into the empty net.
Aluko then showed great skill to dance round four Hibs defenders but sent his shot high and wide before Edu struck the post with a deflected drive as Rangers looked to increase their advantage.
McPake's debut turned into a nightmare in the 71st minute when the new Hibs captain saw red for his second bookable offence when he crudely blocked Edu's run. Things got worse for Hibs when Aluko scored direct from the free-kick as he sent a superb curling effort into the top left-hand corner.
Davis got his second in stoppage time when he drilled a low angled shot past Brown to seal the win.
Elsewhere, a goal from Dean Shiels in extra-time put Kilmarnock into the League Cup final after their match with First Division Ayr United had stood goalless after 90 minutes.
In the SPL Motherwell held on to third spot with a 3-2 win over St Johnstone, Aberdeen defeated Dunfermline 1-0 and Inverness against St Mirren ended goalless.
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