Rangers continued their seemingly unstoppable march to the Scottish Premiership title with a resounding 4-1 win over Dundee United at Ibrox on Sunday.
Ianis Hagi poked the hosts ahead 10 minutes before half-time and Ryan Kent’s deflected strike soon doubled their advantage.
The second half was a stroll in the Glasgow spring sunshine as first Joe Aribo’s rocket made it 3-0 to Steven Gerrard’s side three minutes after the interval, before Alfredo Morelos – not that the striker knew anything about it – added a fortuitous fourth on 64 minutes after a mistake by Benjamin Siegrist.
Rangers could have scored a fifth, only for Siegrist to make up for his earlier error by keeping out Borna Barisic’s penalty, while the visitors did grab a late consolation thanks to substitute Marc McNulty’s fine individual strike.
As a result, Rangers have moved 18 points clear of second-placed Celtic ahead of the champions’ trip to Ross County later on Sunday night, meaning they are now just 10 points away from the title.
How Rangers stayed perfect at Ibrox
Leon Balogun was back at right-back after replacing injured Rangers skipper James Tavernier during Thursday’s Europa League thriller in Antwerp.
Jack, Hagi and Kent also returned for the league leaders, with United welcoming back 10-goal top scorer Nicky Clark and Ian Harkes.
Gers’ home record has been built on solid foundations this term – but United really should have rocked Ibrox given the chances they created.
It took just eight minutes for them to cut through a team that had a distinct leggy look after their exertions in Flanders.
European hangovers have hardly been a major issue this term, with only two points dropped after continental action.
That tally may have grown without Allan McGregor, who bailed out his team with a big block as Lawrence Shankland burst past Filip Helander.
The 39-year-old also had to be quick off his line to dive at Louis Appere’s feet as Gers were opened up again.
United were firmly on top but needed to take advantage while they were on top – with Mellon groaning as a Shankland ball sped across goal without finding a taker.
Gers finally woke up after 20 minutes but found a goalkeeper in just as good form in the United goal, with Siegrist throwing himself down to his left to push away Aribo’s strike after the Ibrox playmaker had skipper past Jeando Fuchs.
But it was far from comfortable for the hosts, who had more to worry about on 27 minutes as Jack limped off pointing to a problem with his right leg.
Another key man missing will be the last thing Gerrard needs after this week’s injury blows to Tavernier and Kemar Roofe.
But at least he still has McGregor, who was called into action for the third time to push away Appere’s 25-yard strike with a brilliant stop at full stretch.
The opener on 35 minutes also raised the manager’s spirits.
Aribo was proving to be Rangers’ main instigator in attack and demonstrated that again as the Nigeria international drove into the box to shoot, with his effort getting a helpful steer past Siegrist as Hagi simply opened his foot up as the ball made contact with his boot.
It was cruel on United – with worse to follow two minutes later as Balogun headed down a Barisic cross for Kent, with his shot again squirming past the helpless Siegrist after clipping Ryan Edwards’ inside boot.
Mellon would have urged his men at half-time to make a contest of it by claiming the next goal – but their chances were gone within three minutes of the restart as Aribo marched into the box and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the corner.
Morelos had been unlucky with a handful of chances but his perseverance paid off on 64 minutes as he chased down an Edwards back pass to Siegrist, with the keeper’s clearance slamming off his body before bouncing into the empty need.
It was the Colombia international who won Gers their penalty two minutes later as he was brought down by Fuchs.
Barisic, however, could not repeat his midweek heroics from 12 yards as Siegrist pushed the spot-kick away.
United, however, merited at least a goal and got it with four minutes remaining as McNulty finally beat McGregor from just outside the box.
Rangers host Royal Antwerp in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie on Thursday night, leading 4-3 from the first leg, before travelling to Livingston on Wednesday March 3 (6pm) in a game you can see live on Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, Dundee Utd take on Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday at 3pm.