Rangers 5 Dundee United 0: Five-star Gers put takeover doubts to one side at Ibrox
23:43 GMT, 2 May 2012
They dispatched Dundee United with the minimum of fuss. How Rangers must wish they could dismiss their off-field problems as easily.
After 20 minutes at Ibrox, Ally McCoist’s side were three goals ahead. Steven Whittaker opened the scoring before Sone Aluko struck twice in a clinical opening to the game.
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Game on: Jamie Ness celebrates after scoring Rangers' fourth goal against Dundee United
Rangers: McGregor, Bartley, Goian, Bocanegra, Whittaker, Edu, McCabe, Ness (Broadfoot 61), Wallace, Aluko (Bedoya 75), Kerkar (McCulloch 81).
Subs Not Used: Alexander, Healy, Perry, Mitchell.
Goals: Whittaker 6, Aluko 17, 20,Ness 57, Bedoya 84.
Dundee Utd: Pernis, Neilson, Dillon, Kenneth (Watson 46), Dixon, Flood, Robertson, Rankin, Mackay-Steven (Douglas 46), Daly, Russell (Dow 76).
Subs Not Used: Banks, Ryan, Swanson, Armstrong.
Referee: Alan Muir
The margin of victory did nothing to dismiss the very real doubts and fears swirling around a windswept old football stadium. It was sufficient, however, to create a degree of confusion. Namely, over which club was supposed to be chasing Champions League football and which was at death’s door.
This was a truly shambolic performance from United. Thanks to this heavy defeat, Motherwell will be representing Scotland in the second qualifying round of Europe’s premier competition and, on the basis of the defending here, Scottish football’s fragile coefficient is in safer hands.
So wretched was his display that Garry Kenneth was hauled from the pitch at half-time alongside Gary Mackay- Steven. In truth, Peter Houston could have hooked all 11 of his players and none could have complained.
Watching it all from the Bill Struth Stand were Brian Kennedy and Paul Murray of the Blue Knights. But rival Bill Miller, who is set to become preferred bidder today, was nowhere to be seen. Yet his spectre hung heavy over the clear Govan sky.
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An impassioned plea from Rangers legend Sandy Jardine for fans to desist from divisive and unhelpful protests against the American proved unnecessary.
Such was the way in which Rangers started this game that all minds were focused on the football soon enough.
McCoist had marched his players on to the Ibrox pitch before their pre-match meal and delivered a rousing team talk following Sunday’s Old Firm defeat to Celtic. Irate with the standard of defending, the response to the Ibrox manager’s words were clear to see.
An early goal was sought and Whittaker duly delivered it. Receiving a lay-off from young Rhys McCabe on the right side of the penalty area, the defender simply passed the ball low beyond a static Dusan Pernis.
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The keeper looked slow to react, but replays showed the ball take a wicked curl into the bottom corner.
From there on in, United simply imploded in catastrophic fashion. They were not entirely hapless, but it was a close thing.
Allan McGregor was required to produce a terrific save from a Kenneth free-kick in the opening minutes before the Scotland keeper tipped a rising effort from Mackay-Steven over the bar.
No one could have envisaged what came next. United had already won at Ibrox, knocking Rangers out of the Scottish Cup. With something to play for — more so, at least, than Rangers — they travelled to Govan with decent grounds for optimism.
As soon as they conceded a second goal in 18 minutes, the game was up.
Willo Flood failed to spot Mackay-Steven in acres of space on the left side, surrendering possession.
As Ness thumped the ball up the field, a poor Kenneth defensive header allowed Salim Kerkar to gather and lay the ball into the path of Aluko.
Thumbs up: Rangers boss Ally McCoist watched his side cruise to victory
The wide man, one of the few bright spots of a torrid period, had but one thought in mind, lowering his head and running at pace at a panicked tangerine defence. Surging past Kenneth, he thumped the ball into the net with his left foot for 2-0.
He was at it again two minutes later, this time on the other side with the other foot. Racing between Kenneth and Scott Robertson at force, Aluko claimed his ninth goal since joining on a free transfer in January.
Speaking in the run-up to the game of the ‘romance’ of Rangers, Aluko expressed a desire to stay. If Kennedy, Miller or whoever grab control, they could do worse than take up the two-year option which would realise the Nigerian international’s wish.
Ending on a high: Ranger's Lee Wallace and Dundee United's Robbie Neilson fight for the ball
For Peter Houston in the visiting technical area, all of this made for grim viewing. The mind of the Scotland assistant manager must have drifted back to his first game in charge, a 7-0 defeat at the same venue.
There were times, indeed, when it seemed history might repeat itself. Lee Wallace burst through a ruck of bodies in 33 minutes and produced a fine close-range save from Pernis. A Kerkar header from a Whittaker cross then landed straight into the arms of the Slovakian keeper as Rangers performed with momentum.
The half-time whistle came as a blessed relief for United, but offered no real hope of a reprieve. The arrival of Barry Douglas and Keith Watson improved the visitors, but only marginally.
Aluko could have had a hat-trick when he ghosted past an uncomfortable Paul Dixon and forced Pernis to save at his near post.
Yet few were under any illusion. Rangers looked capable of scoring at will and claimed a fourth in 57 minutes when Ness offered some hope for the future.
As surprised as anyone that he had escaped the concession of a penalty for a handball in the area, Sean Dillon made a mess of his clearance, gifting the ball to Ness on the edge of the box.
It still required a helpful ricochet but, after the misfortune suffered by the midfielder, he was due a break, slamming the ball into the net from 10 yards.
The sight of Bedoya, a largely unloved figure, slotting a superb Maurice Edu through ball into the net said much for how comfortable a night this was for Rangers.
They were entitled to enjoy it. Come this morning it’s back to the grim business of administration and survival.