Record-breaking Rangers swat aside Dundee United to stay top
But Ibrox side suffer a glut of injuries
James Tavernier marked his 250th appearance for Rangers with a goal but it was his contribution to a record-breaking defensive performance which would give the Ibrox captain his greatest sense of satisfaction.
Steven Gerrard’s side swatted aside Dundee United to stay top of the Scottish Premiership with a seventh consecutive clean sheet at the start of a campaign which eclipsed the previous best set by Celtic under Willie Maley back in 1906.
It was not an occasion which went entirely as Gerrard would have wished, however, as Rangers suffered a remarkable glut of injuries which saw Leon Balogun, Ryan Jack, Brandon Barker and Alfredo Morelos all have their afternoons cut short.
But it was another encouraging all-round performance for the Rangers manager as goals from Ryan Kent, Tavernier, Kemar Roofe and Scott Arfield extended the almost blemish-free start to his latest attempt to wrest the title away from Celtic.
Rangers established control of the contest despite the wretched sequence of injury disruptions to their plans which began in the warm-up when Balogun pulled up and had to be replaced in the starting line-up by Filip Helander.
The hosts then lost Jack and Barker who both limped off before the midway point of the first half with Glen Kamara and Morelos taking over.
But while United enjoyed some decent possession and energetically pressed high up the pitch in the opening exchanges, it was Rangers who carried the greater menace and a cutting edge when they worked themselves into their attacking third of the pitch.
The opening goal in the 13th minute came from an outstanding piece of football which was typical of Kent’s impressive start to the season.
The winger combined intricately and swiftly with Ianis Hagi on the left then bewildered the United defence with some shuffling footwork inside the penalty area before he slid his fourth goal of the campaign under Benjamin Siegrist.
Rangers almost doubled their lead just a minute later and Kamara might have done better than head wide of Siegrist’s right hand post when he got on the end of Borna Barisic’s pinpoint cross.
While the enforced changes meant Gerrard had to amend his formation with the new personnel, it was a smooth transition as Kemar Roofe dropped into a deeper role to accommodate the return of Morelos as the central striker.
The Colombian looked fresh and eager to get involved but he was beaten to his team’s second goal six minutes before half-time by his skipper. Tavernier was the quickest to react when Barisic produced another superb delivery, nipping in ahead of Morelos to knock the ball home from close range.
Siegrist made a smart save to deny Roofe early in the second half as Rangers remained dominant. They should have scored in the 54th minute when Roofe and Morelos combined to set up a chance for Kent which he scooped wide from close range.
It was the last meaningful involvement from Morelos before he was caught by a dangerous and high challenge from Ryan Edwards for which the United defender remarkably escaped punishment. After lengthy treatment, the stricken Morelos was carried off and replaced by Arfield.
Siegrist was just about keeping United in contention, the Swiss goalkeeper pulling off a double save to deny Hagi and Calvin Bassey, although the visitors were also grateful to some wastefulness on Rangers’ part as Bassey and Kent both passed up relatively simple chances from close range.
But Gerrard’s men put the outcome beyond doubt with their third goal in the 68th minute. It was a second for the club for Roofe, a neat and precise first-time finish from around eight yards after Arfield had flashed the ball in from the left.
Rangers needed a degree of fortune to preserve their landmark shut-out in the closing stages when a shot from Ian Harkes crashed back off the crossbar, just before Arfield made it 4-0 when he swept in a shot from Hagi’s pass.
United had offered little in response but Jon McLaughlin was forced to make his first and only notable save of the day in the 90th minute when he kept out a shot from substitute Lawrence Shankland.
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