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Rangers thrash Hearts to move five points clear in title race

Rangers showed their title intent with a 5-0 win against Hearts to move five points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

The Ibrox side were in no mood to let Hearts show the form that had seen them win their previous six league matches as Mohammed Diomande fired in the opener inside two minutes.

Oscar Cortes made it 2-0 with his first goal since joining Rangers in January and Cyriel Dessers headed in a third before half-time.

Steven Naimsith’s side looked shell-shocked as Dessers added another just after half-time with Fabio Silva coming off the bench to wrap up an impressive performance by Philippe Clement’s side.

Celtic can cut Rangers’ lead back to two points with a win at Motherwell on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, while Hearts remain third.

Rangers show no sign of stopping

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Rangers' Mohamed Diomande celebrates after making it 1-0 during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Heart of Midlothian at Ibrox Stadium, on February 24, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image: Mohamed Diomande fired in an early opener for Rangers

The Ibrox side, who were paired with Benfica in the Europa League last-16 draw on Friday, were high on confidence after winning their previous nine matches.

Hearts had reason to believe they could cause an upset despite three defeats out of three against the Govan side this season.

Naismith’s men were unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions and captain Lawrence Shankland led the league goalscoring charts with 18 goals in 26 games for club and country so far this season.

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Tom Lawrence was one of four changes along with Ridvan Yilmaz, Dujon Sterling and Dessers also starting for Rangers. Kemar Roofe was back on the bench after two months out.

Nathaniel Atkinson, Jorge Grant and Kenneth Vargas all returned to Hearts’ starting XI at Ibrox.

But they were stunned by the loss of the early goal.

Hearts were in their shape when 20-year-old Cortes came in from the left and set up Diomande who sized up the shot from 20 yards and drilled the ball low past Gorgie keeper Zander Clark, his second Rangers goal after scoring his first last week against St Johnstone.

Oscar Cortes scored his first Rangers goal against Hearts
Image: Oscar Cortes scored his first Rangers goal against Hearts

The football was frantic.

A lung-bursting run by Dessers ended up with his shot saved by Clark, who made an even better save from skipper James Tavernier’s powerful drive moments later.

Dessers should have had the ball in the net in the 18th minute after Clark had parried a long-distance drive from Ridvan Yilmaz but the Jambos keeper saved his header and then his shot, although the offside flag was up.

The Gers striker then headed a Yilmaz cross past the post with only Clark to beat.

Just as Hearts worked their way back into the game, they conceded a second with Tom Lawrence taking a Dujon Sterling pass and motoring forward before squaring for Cortes and he curled the ball low past the diving Clark, who was soon picking the ball out of his net again when Dessers side-footed a John Souttar cross past him.

Cyriel Dessers headed Rangers to a 3-0 lead before half time
Image: Cyriel Dessers scored for Rangers either side of half time

The Jambos defence failed to deal with Sterling’s cross into the box early in the second half and Dessers lashed the ball into the net from close range, the goal surviving a VAR check for handball.

Silva and Ross McCausland replaced Lawrence and Sterling before Tavernier’s cut-back across the six-yard box evaded the sliding Dessers.

But there was no respite for the visitors.

In the 65th minute, midfielder John Lundstram slid in Silva and his angled-drive beat Clark and found the far corner.

Rangers' Fabio Silva scores to make it 5-0
Image: Rangers’ Fabio Silva scores to make it 5-0

The distressed Gorgie side kept on going.

Gers keeper Jack Butland was beaten by a Shankland header but the ball rebounded off the post and Rangers escaped, with Butland making a decent save from Grant’s 25-yard free-kick and substitute Kyosuke Tagawa’s curling strike.

However, another clean sheet was registered by the home side and they will travel to Kilmarnock on Wednesday with increasing title belief.

What’s next?

Rangers’ next Scottish Premiership game is away to Kilmarnock on Wednesday night, while Hearts host Hibs in the Edinburgh derby.

Both games kick off at 7.45pm.

Sky News
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