Rangers 2-0 Hearts: Jamie Murphy and Russell Martin strike as hosts close on Celtic
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 24/02/18 6:37pm
Rangers moved to within six points of Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic, for now at least, with a 2-0 win over Hearts at Ibrox.
Both sides had chances to score in an open and entertaining first half before a fine solo goal from Jamie Murphy four minutes before the break gave the Light Blues the advantage.
Graeme Murty's side dominated the second half and should have increased their lead on several occasions before defender Russell Martin, on loan from Norwich, stabbed the ball in from close range with two minutes left to clinch the points.
Celtic play Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday and, while Brendan Rodgers' side still have a healthy lead, they will know their rivals will be waiting to capitalise on any slip-ups during the run-in.
Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin was the busiest player of the afternoon at Ibrox. In the seventh minute, and with the home side spraying the ball around with confidence, he stretched to tip a long-distance drive from midfielder Sean Goss over the bar for a corner.
Moments later, McLaughlin produced a fine double save, first parrying midfielder Greg Docherty's left-footed drive from 20 yards before blocking an attempt by striker Alfredo Morelos, who had followed in.
Hearts responded positively as the play raced from end to end. In the 18th minute, Gers keeper Wes Foderingham flew to his left to push Kyle Lafferty's curled shot out for a corner and the former Rangers striker had two attempts from the corner before the Govan side smuggled the ball clear.
Foderingham then made a fine save from a Ross Callachan drive and at the other end Morelos headed a Declan John cross over the bar before Murphy, on loan from Brighton, fired a shot wide of the far post.
Four minutes before the break, however, it was Murphy who broke the deadlock in style. When right-back James Tavernier passed to Docherty outside the box, he quickly played in the former Motherwell player who rounded Aaron Hughes, John Souttar and keeper McLaughlin before slipping the ball into the net.
The Govan side made a storming start to the second half. Attacker Josh Windass scooped a Morelos pass over the bar from 12 yards, with McLaughlin making another save from Docherty minutes later before denying Windass following a swift Rangers break.
In the 65th minute, as Rangers dominated, McLaughlin made yet another save, this time from a Morelos drive.
The home side's wastefulness in front of goal continued as defender David Bates headed a Tavernier cross over the bar from 10 yards before McLaughlin tipped a Windass free-kick past the post for a corner.
Rangers kept the pressing and in the 88th minute, when wide-man Daniel Candeias flashed the ball across the Hearts goal, Martin was there to knock in from a couple of yards and score his first Gers goal.