Rangers were brought firmly back down to earth with a defeat at home from Hibs, having just returned from securing one of their greatest ever European successes – a 3-0 Champions League rout away to French champions Lyon.
Hibs won with a goal by full-back David Murphy, who also managed a critical clearance off his own line in the dying minutes to preserve their one-goal lead. A tedious first half gave way to an absorbing second period and more glory for John Collins and his team.
Hibs sat unbeaten at the top of the SPL with six wins and three draws, while they had completed the Glasgow double, with both Rangers and Celtic being defeated in a matter of weeks. Rangers boss Walter Smith made alterations to the side which had disposed of Lyon at Stade de Gerland in midweek, with neither of the three goalscorers making the starting line-up. Lee McCulloch and Daniel Cousin began on the bench and only appeared when Hibs had taken the lead, while DaMarcus Beasley was given a day off.
It was obvious that they were struggling, for there wasn’t an ounce of oomph in his team as an attacking force, with Kris Boyd up front on his own.
At the other end, Mickael Antoine-Curier had help from Clayton Donaldson and Steven Fletcher but none of them had any luck either. The midfield was too crowded for anything crisp to happen. Too many bodies were colliding and forcing too many errors.
The only noteworthy happenings in the opening 45 minutes were mostly slapstick moments. True, Barry Ferguson had a shot in the 16th minute but Yves Ma-Kalambay wasn’t exactly extended when dealing with it. Charlie Adam’s travails typified proceedings.
After half an hour he had a shot so high and unmighty that it found the upper tier of the Broomloan Road stand. Then another shot and a header both sailed over.
Late in the half a little dart up the right by Steven Whittaker, followed by a cross, left Ma-Kalambay pawing the ball away to Adam. The midfielder tried to delicately pick a spot in the corner of the Hibs goal, but only managed to bounce it wide.
At the break Collins acted, replacing Donaldson with Filipe Morais, who went on to have a telling role in Murphy’s goal. That was the kind of decisive thinking the Rangers fans wanted from Smith, but there was no such move from him despite Ibrox getting more restless and more abusive of their team as the minutes ticked on.
Then the place went barmy. Hibs won a corner, Morais swung it in and Murphy sneaked in ahead of everyone to glance a gorgeous header past Allan McGregor. He took off in the direction of the Hibs support, pursued by his stunned team-mates, greeted by his euphoric fans, a small pocket of joy amid the bitterness and rancour.
They roared for Smith to act and eventually he did. In the 69th minute he replaced Whittaker with Steven Naismith and Kevin Thomson with McCulloch. When they didn’t pay dividends he put Daniel Cousin on for Boyd. Hibs repelled them all. Their back four was simply outstanding.
Hibs: Ma-Kalambay, McCann, Murphy, Jones, Hogg, Chisholm, Antoine-Curier, Kerr, Beuzelin, Donaldson, Fletcher.