Michael Beale made a winning start as Rangers boss after Alfredo Morelos’ goal secured a 3-2 comeback victory over Hibernian at Ibrox.
It was a fraught occasion for Beale – who replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst last month – with Hibs leading twice in the opening 16 minutes, first through Ryan Porteous, then Kevin Nisbet after Fashion Sakala’s leveller.
Rangers looked brighter after the break and Ryan Jack made it 2-2 before James Tavernier and Malik Tillman combined to set up Morelos for the winner.
Beale’s victorious start cuts Celtic’s lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points ahead of their game against Aberdeen on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Hibs remain eighth with just one win from their last eight league matches.
How Rangers secured victory for Beale
On what was a bitterly cold night in Govan, both sides needed the win for different reasons, Hibs to get back to form and Rangers to put some pressure on Celtic, but it was the Easter Road side who forged into an early lead.
Gers keeper Allan McGregor did well to tip a powerful drive from Elie Youan over the bar for a corner but from Joe Newell’s inswinging delivery Porteous rose highest just six yards out to bullet in a header.
Six minutes later Porteous came close again with a drive from 16 yards which flew over the bar as Tillman challenged.
But soon after, Rangers were level when Ryan Kent squared to Sakala inside the Hibs box and he took a touch before driving low past keeper David Marshall.
However, seconds later, with the home fans still in celebratory mode, Nisbet raced past the Gers defence on to a Marijan Cabraja pass and smashed the ball high past McGregor to restore Hibs’ lead.
While Gers’ makeshift central defence of James Sands and John Lundstram looked shaky, Hibs defended their lead stoutly and just before the break Youan was sent clear by Josh Campbell but McGregor came out to block with his legs and the home side escaped further punishment.
Rangers required a huge improvement after the break and they soon had Hibs pressed back into their own box.
Marshall made a terrific save from Sakala’s close-range header but the Ibrox men soon got their reward after winning another corner.
Captain James Tavernier swung the ball in from the right and Tillman flicked on at the near post for Jack to knock into the net from a couple of yards.
And just four minutes later Rangers were celebrating would prove to be the decider.
Again, Tillman was the provider when his quick feet took him past Paul Hanlon and Rocky Bushiri inside the penalty area. He then cut the ball back to give Morelos an easy finish from four yards and Rangers then took a tighter grip to end up deserved winners.
Beale: Half-time talk was key
Michael Beale told Sky Sports he was delighted with his Rangers players’ response, but knows there is work to do:
“The first ball that went in our box went in the goal and I think we looked a little bit nervous for a minute, a little bit anxious.
“We had a nice chat at half-time, organised a few things, they listened and they went out and I thought they played much more like how I want them to play second half.
“We equalled it up with the set-play goal then we scored a fantastic goal. That’s how I want to see us play.
“I know I’ve got a job on and to be fair to the boys they know they’ve got a job on to get back to the standards that we’ve had previously.
“You saw a little bit of everything tonight. A little bit of anxiety in the air, certainly in the crowd and on the pitch as well.”
Johnson: There are ‘a lot of positives’
Hibs manager Lee Johnson refused to be too downbeat after their fourth straight defeat in the league:
“Obviously I’m disappointed to lose the game, but I thought it was an excellent performance from us.
“First half was superb, we did fade a little bit but we’ve got players coming back from injury that probably had 60-70 minutes in the tank.
“There’s a lot of positives and that gives us a performance to build on properly.
“You could see the work we’ve put in over the last two or three weeks.”
Tuesday 20th December 7:30pm
Kick off 8:00pm
Rangers are away to Aberdeen on December 20, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 8pm.
Hibernian’s next match is at home to Livingston on December 24. That game kicks off at 2pm.
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