Hibs 0, Rangers 3: Horror night for Hibs at Easter Road
Early give-away goal sets the tone
Ten-man Hibs all but gift-wrapped the three points as Rangers enjoyed their Christmas night out in Edinburgh, cruising to the easiest of wins against a home side who again couldn’t muster a shot on target.
Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano presented Ryan Kent with an opening goal with barely three minutes on the clock, a lead which was doubled in quick time by Joe Aribo as the Ibrox side threatened to run riot.
Hibs managed to get to half-time with no further damage done, but Jermain Defoe added a third eight minutes into the second half before Scotland Under-21 defender Ryan Porteous was shown a straight red card on the hour mark for scything down Borna Barisic.
It was a shocking tackle and the Hibs youngster, also sent off in the Betfred Cup quarter-final against Kilmarnock earlier in the season, could have no complaints about referee Nick Walsh’s decision.
Porteous will now miss the Boxing Day derby at Tynecastle, making the return of veteran defender Darren McGregor after four months out through injury all the more timely.
Fans were still finding their seats when Marciano put his team-mates in immediate trouble, the Israeli goalkeeper taking an age to deal with Lewis Stevenson’s pass back and obviously totally unaware of Aribo closing him down.
The Rangers winger managed to get a half-block on Marciano’s clearance, taking all the pace off it as it fell kindly for Kent lurking at the edge of the penalty area and he didn’t need a second invitation as he fired high into the empty net with a first-time right-foot shot.
Hibs hardly had time to draw breath before they found themselves two down, Aribo playing a clever reverse pass for Jack, who returned it into his path and he side-footed it beyond Marciano’s reach.
Hibs head coach Jack Ross would have been dismayed at the ease in which his side had been carved open. The clear worry was that the game could rapidly turn into a rout with Rangers seeking not only to cut the gap on league leaders Celtic to two points but to do their inferior goal difference some good at the same time.
It threatened to go that way as Hibs struggled to gain any foothold whatsoever in the game as Rangers swarmed all over them, denying them space and knocking the ball around to leave their opponents chasing shadows at times.
A Kent shot took a slight deflection to send it just wide and when the ex-Liverpool player found Aribo in acres of space deep inside Hibs penalty area it took the feet of Marciano to prevent a third for the Ibrox side.
Hibs playmakers Scott Allan and Stevie Mallan were finding it impossible to put a foot on the ball, the only brief respite for the capital club being a low angled shot from Martin Boyle which appeared to take a nick off a Rangers player as it zipped wide of the far post.
Otherwise it was virtually all one-way traffic, a James Tavernier cross only inches from the outstretched boot of Jermain Defoe, Porteous diving to head a Barisic ball to safety and Tavernier nodding straight into Marciano’s hands.
Ross had plenty of food for thought during the interval, the Hibs head coach replacing Flo Kamberi and Mallan with Daryl Horgan and Vykintas Slivka, abandoning the midfield diamond for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
It almost paid immediate dividends, Horgan delivering a cross for which Christian Doidge stretched but just couldn’t make contact before Boyle set off on a promising run which was finally halted by Ryan Jack. Two incidents which came to nought but did help raise the home fans just a little.
That promise wasn’t to last, though, as Jason Naismith headed away Aribo’s cross only for Scott Arfield to return it to Defoe, the scorer of a hat-trick in that 6-1 hammering Hibs took at Ibrox earlier in the season, to cut back inside the defender to drill in Rangers third.
And it went from bad to worse for Ross’ side as Porteous saw red for the second time this season, Hibs forced into a third change as McGregor, out since mid-August, replaced Allan in a bid to shore up the home defence.
It had been hard enough for Hibs will a full complement of players, the evening now all about saving a bit of face and trying to ensure there was no repeat of that humiliation in Govan when, again with ten men after Sean Mackie was sent off, they shipped four goals in the closing 16 minutes.
Easter Road had been less than full – and certainly far short of the official attendance of 19,540 – but for many enough was enough and the home stands quickly began to empty.
Hibs (4-1-2-1-2): Marciano; Naismith, Porteous, Hanlon, Stevenson; Hallberg; Boyle, Mallan (Slivka 45); Allan (D McGregor 64); Doidge, Kamberi (Horgan 46). Substitutes not used: Bogdan, Jackson, Shaw, F Murray.
Rangers (4-3-3): A McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Barisic; Arfield, Jack (Stewart 80), Kamara; Aribo (Ojo 75), Defoe, Kent (Barker 77). Substitutes not used: Foderingham, Edmundson, Halliday, Polster.