Gers recover to hit Hibs for four

Rangers showed their SPL title credentials by staging a remarkable

comeback to win 4-1 against Hibernian at Easter Road on Sunday.

The result restored the Gers’ four-point advantage over

Celtic at the top of the table.

Anthony Stokes left the Scottish champions reeling when he

claimed the SPL’s fastest-ever goal after just 12.4 seconds –

beating the record previously set by Saulius Mikoliunas for Hearts

back in 2006 – but it was not enough for Hibs to maintain their

impressive assault on the Old Firm’s dominance this season.

Rangers hit back through a double from Kenny Miller and goals

from Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo to end the Edinburgh club’s unbeaten

run of 13 league games and bring their own tally of goals to 19 for

the month of December.

Hibs were handed a boost ahead of the match when Sol Bamba

was given the green light to play after initially being denied

permission to delay joining up with the Ivory Coast squad ahead of

the African Nations Cup.

Rangers were without DaMarcus Beasley after he apparently

suffered a thigh strain in training, but Maurice Edu was named on

the bench for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury

in the final SPL game of last season.

Some fans had yet to take their seats in the stand when Hibs

surged into the lead with just 12 seconds on the clock. Merouane

Zemmama threaded a pass through to Stokes who drilled an angled

drive past Allan McGregor and into the back of the net.

Rangers attempted to force their way back into the game and

Kyle Lafferty delivered a decent cross for Miller only for the

striker to nod narrowly wide of target.

Miller made amends for that miss with 21 minutes gone when he

raced onto a Boyd pass before rifling past Yves Ma-Kalambay in the

Hibs goal from 20 yards to level the scoreline. Miller then went to

ground in the area claiming he had been bundled over by Chris Hogg

but referee Iain Brines was unimpressed by the claims and no

penalty was forthcoming.

Hogg then appeared to handle in the box but, again, the match

official was unmoved. But Rangers were celebrating again when they

took the lead after 37 minutes. Derek Riordan was dispossessed on

the right flank by Madjid Bougherra, who whipped a cross to the

feet of Boyd for the striker to lash high into the net from eight

yards.

Ma-Kalambay appeared to be struggling with a hamstring injury

during the first half but reappeared after the interval, with boss

John Hughes seemingly reluctant to throw rookie Thomas Flynn into

the action.

At the other end, Stokes stung the palms of McGregor with a

snap-shot five minutes after the restart and the Rangers goalkeeper

did well to snuff out the danger.

Instead, it was Ma-Kalambay who was soon picking the ball out

of the net again. The Hibs goalkeeper came off his line to block

but was caught cold by Nacho Novo’s cross-cum-shot from the left

with 53 minutes gone.

There appeared to be no way back for Hibs when Rangers

claimed their fourth of the day after 67 minutes. Boyd was the

provider for Miller, who shrugged off Bamba to send a low shot

trickling over the line, with Ma-Kalambay helpless.

The vocal travelling support had more to cheer when Edu was

introduced for the final 15 minutes, making his first appearance of

the campaign.

Easter Road rapidly began to empty, with Hibs sensing there

was no hope of staging their own comeback.

Substitute Abdessalam Benjelloun could have reduced the

deficit with a well-struck shot from distance but McGregor was up

to the task and blocked well as Rangers continued their winning run

this month.