Rangers 2-1 Hearts: Candeias shines to help Gers to morale-boosting win
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 22/04/18 3:33pm
Rangers responded to their Old Firm debacle with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Hearts at Ibrox which moves them back up to second in the Scottish Premiership.
Following a goalless first half, Graeme Murty's side took the lead just two minutes after the break as Jason Cummings swept home from Daniel Candeias' cross, and the Portuguese provider turned goalscorer for Rangers' second as he headed in from Jamie Murphy's cross (64).
But after Christophe Berra reduced the deficit with a firm header (71), Kyle Lafferty very nearly completed the turnaround when his curled shot struck the outside of the post, but Rangers quelled the fightback to move back above Aberdeen into second.
Rangers: Alnwick (6), Tavernier (7), McCrorie (6), Martin (6), John (7), Holt (6), Dorrans (6), Candeias (8), Murphy (7), Windass (7), Cummings (7).
Subs: Halliday (6), Morelos (5), O'Halloran (n/a)
Hearts: McLaughlin (6), Souttar (6), Berra (7), Hughes (6), Randall (6), Cowie (6), Smith (5), Godinho (5), Amankwaa (4), Naismith (5), Lafferty (6).
Subs: Adao (5), Moore (6), Henderson (5)
Man of the match: Daniel Candeias
The result means Celtic can secure a seventh straight Scottish Premiership title at home to Rangers next Sunday.
Hearts arrived in Glasgow hoping to capitalise on the hosts' fragile state of mind following Celtic's 4-0 thrashing at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi-final, but Rangers were good value for their win despite the close scoreline.
Despite the improved display, many supporters vented their frustration at the club's current plight as they unveiled a banner saying: "No fight, no pride. Nowhere to hide. Incompetent on & off the pitch. We deserve better."
Jamie Murphy missed the game's first proper opening as a heavy touch allowed keeper Jon McLaughlin to cut the angle before spreading himself to divert the shot, but the home support were finally given something to shout about two minutes after the interval.
Rangers made four changes to the starting XI with Wes Foderingham, midfielders Andy Halliday and Greg Docherty and striker Alfredo Morelos coming out.
In their place were Jak Alnwick, Jason Holt, Josh Windass and Jason Cummings.
Hearts made one change to the side that beat Aberdeen 2-0 in their last outing. Danny Amankwaa replaced David Milinkovic, who missed out due to a knock to his knee.
Murphy drove down the left before cutting the ball back for Josh Windass, who laid the ball off for former Hibs forward Cummings to tuck home his sixth goal since arriving in January.
The impressive Candeias gave Rangers breathing space shortly after the hour-mark as he finished off from Murphy's cross with a fine diving header, but Murty's men were not able to relax for long.
Berra pulled one back, flicking a Don Cowie free-kick home with 19 minutes remaining and Hearts could have been level moments later as Lafferty clipped the post.
But Gers also spurned a series of late chances themselves through substitute Alfedo Morelos as they held on to regain second spot from Aberdeen.
Man of the match: Daniel Candeias
Candeias demonstrated his full range of attacking qualities to keep the Hearts defence constantly on the back foot.
The 30-year-old score in back-to-back games for the first time this season, planting his header confidently into the net whilst the Portuguese showed excellent awareness in drawing three defenders before setting up Cummings for the opener.
Sky Sports pundit Kris Commons said of the performance: "He was tremendous, he really got on the front-foot, the wingers aren't renowned for headed ability and it's a great header."
Murty will hope the midfielder can build on this hugely impressive display to prevent Celtic from wrapping up the title against their fierce rivals next weekend.
Rangers take on Celtic next Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football while Hearts travel to face Aberdeen on Friday night at Pittodrie.