Alfredo Morelos’ first goal in the Scottish Premiership since September helped Rangers secure a 13th consecutive league victory with a 2-0 victory at St Mirren in form.
The hosts had shaded the first half before a stroke of bad luck saw Conor McCarthy deflect Kemar Roofe’s shot past Jak Alnwick for the opening goal.
They made their own problems to give Morelos a second seven minutes later, the forward pouncing on Joe Shaughnessy’s bad back pass to beat Alnwick for his first league goal since September 30.
St Mirren came closest thanks to Jonathan Obika’s early double effort, but failed to test Allan McGregor enough to seriously threaten a comeback, while Roofe saw his header from a clear corner of the line in second period.
Result allows Rangers to maintain their 16-point lead at the top ahead of Saturday’s Old Firm game, live Sky Sports Soccer, while St Mirren misses the opportunity to climb into the top half of the Scottish Premiership.
Ranger class shows against brave hosts
St Mirren had provided the first and so far the only loss for the Rangers of the season two weeks ago to the day and in 15 seconds they came to life as Jamie McGrath advanced and tested McGregor at 25 yards.
The hosts’ brilliant debut continued, with clear confidence and intensity in their play with and without the ball, and Obika passed nearly twice in a row as they threatened the opening goal.
That made the rotten luck that played its part in the delay all the harsher, with Hagi’s slide rule pass turned on goal by Roofe, but deflected past his own keeper by McCarthy’s desperate dive.
They might have less reason to feel aggrieved when the second Rangers followed soon after, thanks to a horribly under-hit backpass from Shaughnessy, allowing Morelos to beat Alnwick with a cool finish for the perfect Christmas present for end his drought of goals.
After the break St Mirren started the second half on the front foot as in the first, but nearly sank without a trace when Glen Kamara found Morelos free, but at a tight angle Alnwick prevented his effort from curling.
The visitors almost put the result out of doubt again when Roofe’s corner header was cleared from the line with 20 minutes remaining.
Jim Goodwin called on Kristian Dennis in the final quarter of an hour as he looked to throw the kitchen sink at Rangers – but the league leaders took their 13th straight league victory to maintain their lead in 16 points at the top.
St Mirren will travel to Kilmarnock for their first game of 2021 on Saturday; Kick-off at 3 p.m.
Rangers face their second Old Firm game of the campaign against Celtic earlier today, live Sky Sports Football from 11:30 am; Kick-off at 12:30 p.m.