Kyle Lafferty took advantage of Nikica Jelavic's injury by putting in an impressive performance last night against Hearts at Ibrox. Lafferty scored the only goal of the game on 4 minutes when he volleyed home from Whittaker's deep cross.
New signings El-Hadji Diouf, David Healy and Kyle Bartley were all left on the bench by Walter Smith as the Gers went for the same formation that dominated the reverse fixture at Tynecastle just a few weeks ago. Vladimir Weiss replaced Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic was missing from the team with a groin injury.
After Hearts' abysmal performance against Celtic, this was their last chance at saving what is an already dented title challenge. Confidence was high after the 1-0 win over Rangers in January and Hearts responded well to Lafferty's early goal with a lot of the possession and a few half-chances. Skipper Marius Zaliukas worked a superb save from Allan McGregor in the first-half but it was difficult for the Jambos to create much with Templeton and Kyle out of the team.
Lee McCulloch went off midway through the first-half and Smith handed a debut to El-Hadji Diouf who recieved a warm welcome to Ibrox by the Rangers fans who braved the heavy rain. Diouf showed some neat touches and floated in behind Jelavic and it was he who got the first clattering from Ian Black who is not the most popular player in Govan.
Jamie Ness, Vladimir Weiss and Madjid Bougherra were three of Rangers better performers in what was a fairly average team performance by the champions. The aforementioned Bougherra was denied a 2nd SPL goal in consecutive games by Marian Kello after a neat one-two with Steven Davis and the Algerian's finish was parried behind by Kello who seems to save his best performances for Rangers.
Rangers could have added a 2nd goal in the final minutes when Steven Davis tapped home the rebound from Marian Kello's stunning save as he denied El-Hadji Diouf a debut goal at Ibrox. The Gers held on and made up ground on Celtic with 5 points seperating the two and Rangers having 2 extra games to play.
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