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Rangers bounce back with comfortable win over Hearts

Defoe, Connor Goldson and Scott Arfield scored for Gers.

Rangers bounce back with comfortable win over Hearts

Jermain Defoe was on target as Rangers bounced back from their late defeat by Celtic with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Hearts.

Defoe and Connor Goldson put Rangers two ahead inside 21 minutes as they dominated the early stages, and Scott Arfield finished off the contest two minutes after the break.

It was a first win since February for Rangers but it saw them strengthen their grip on second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership and reduce the chances of Celtic clinching the title before the split.

Rangers started with Ryan Kent after challenging the winger’s two-match ban for striking Scott Brown during Sunday’s defeat at Parkhead, with his hearing taking place on Thursday.

Jon Flanagan and Defoe replaced  Andy Halliday and Alfredo Morelos following their derby red cards while Glen Kamara and Steven Davis came into the midfield as Ross McCrorie and Daniel Candeias dropped to the bench.

Steven Gerrard’s side came out in determined fashion and Defoe had the ball in the net inside 90 seconds but was just offside as Ryan Jack stabbed the ball through as Christophe Berra got caught in possession.

The hosts kept up the pressure and James Tavernier had a strike beaten away before making a key contribution to the 16th-minute opener. The right-back saw his effort saved by Zdenek Zlamal after Scott Arfield found his run and Defoe was on hand to volley the rebound in off the bar.

Tavernier set up the second as his free-kick found Goldson in space to head home from eight yards.

Hearts were being overrun and lacked the outlet of target man Uche Ikpeazu because of a head injury. But they rallied around the half-hour mark and won a series of set-pieces from which Christophe Berra twice forced saves, the second an impressive diving stop from Allan McGregor.

Any hopes of a comeback were extinguished immediately after the restart. Again Tavernier was involved as he raced down the flank and delivered a cross which Defoe diverted towards goal. Zlamal produced a brilliant save but Arfield was on hand to convert the rebound.

Rangers went on to canter to victory. Kent, sub McCrorie and Defoe  were off target from half-chances and another substitute, Eros Grezda, headed against the post from close range after the ball flashed into his direction following a set-piece.

Hearts threatened a late consolation but Olly Lee failed to find fellow substitute Aidan Keena with the goal gaping and the latter came close with a long-range chip. Jamie Brandon produced their best piece of play in stoppage-time but hit the outside of the post from 25 yards after a positive run.

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