Hibs ensured Rangers went eight competitive games without a victory for the first time in their history, and left manager Alex McLeish – who left Easter Road for Ibrox – clinging to his job by a thread.
A midweek draw in Porto may have offered him a stay of execution, but the club’s chairman, David Murray, wasn’t going to persevere much longer with a manager who has presided over a series of domestic disappointments. Hopes of retaining the SPL were all but written off, but that was the case even before this defeat.
Derek Riordan opened the scoring with a crisp finish from close range, after Ivan Sproule had laid the ball in his path with a cross-cum-shot from the left flank. Hibs’ second goal came when Garry O’Connor benefited from Riordan’s fine build-up play and a static Rangers defence to fire past Ronald Waterreus. Barry Ferguson’s goal should have set up a rousing last half hour, but Hibs never looked like conceding an equaliser.
The former Blackburn Rovers midfielder was sent off in the game’s dying moments, after receiving a second booking for a mistimed tackle on the lively Kevin Thomson.
“We were awesome in the first half,” said O’Connor. “And that shows what we can do. We stayed focused and could have been further ahead at half-time. We’ve got a good enough squad to challenge for the league, but we won’t get carried away.”
Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Smith, Caldwell, Glass, Sproule, Thomson (Shiels 90), Scott Brown, Beuzelin, Riordan (Morrow 88), O’Connor (Fletcher 75). Unused subs: Simon Brown, Hogg, McDonald, Rudge
Rangers: Waterreus, Hutton, Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Murray, Burke (Lovenkrands 60), Ferguson, Alex Rae (Hemdani 24), Namouchi, Jeffers (Thompson 46), McCormack. Unused subs: Klos, Malcolm, Pierre-Fanfan, Smith
Referee: S Dougal