Rangers beat Ross County but miss chance to move top

Rangers moved level on points with Celtic but failed to finish enough of their countless shots on target to move top of the Scottish Premiership.

Philippe Clement’s side had to beat County by at least three goals to move above Celtic for the first time this season and Cyriel Dessers’ early strike gave them hope.

Simon Murray caught out the Rangers’ defence to claim a surprise equaliser before Dessers’ deflected header saw the hosts ahead at the break.

Image: Cyriel Dessers opened the scoring for Rangers

Rangers were wasteful, while County goalkeeper George Wickens produced a string of saves to keep Clement’s side at bay until John Souttar nodded home a third in injury time.

Victory keeps the pressure on champions Celtic, while Ross County are 11th.

Wasteful Rangers remain second

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Sky Sports’ Luke Shanley and Kris Boyd assess Rangers’ 3-1 win against Ross County as they pass up the chance to move top of the Scottish Premiership on goal difference

Another huge crowd rolled up to Ibrox knowing a three-goal win against a club who had never beaten Rangers in 23 attempts would see the lead at the top change hands.

A sense of expectancy hung heavy in the air.

Dessers struck early, taking a pass from captain James Tavernier and fending off the attention of defender Ryan Leak before lobbing the ball over stranded Staggies ‘keeper Wickens and the Light Blues were up and running.

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Philippe Clement made seven changes from Saturday’s 2-0 Scottish Cup win over Ayr United. Ridvan Yilmaz, John Lundstram, Tom Lawrence, Ross McCausland, Todd Cantwell, Rabbi Matondo and Cyriel Dessers all returned.

Ross County’s interim manager Don Cowie brought in Eamonn Brophy, Michee Efete, Ryan Leak, Josh Reid and Victor Loturi.

Wickens soon had to tip a powerful shot from Tavernier past the post for a corner, which the startled Dingwall side survived.

In the 10th minute, Dessers latched on to a raking pass from left-back Rıdvan Yilmaz and beat Wickens only to see the ball rebound off the post.

Then Rabbi Matondo raced onto a defence-splitting pass from midfielder Lundstram and curled the ball past the far post before Wickens tipped a shot from the wide man onto the bar and over.

Tom Lawrence, Souttar, Tavernier and Dessers had further efforts of various quality before Murray stunned the home fans into silence with a confident volley from six yards from a delicious Eamonn Brophy cross.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 14: Ross County's Simon Murray scores to make it 1-1 during a cinch Premiership match between Rangers and Ross County at Ibrox Stadium, on February 14, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Image: Ross County’s Simon Murray made it 1-1

The mood inside the stadium darkened.

The Gers crowd looked on in astonishment as Leak stopped Dessers’ close-range shot after Wickens had spilled a Todd Cantwell drive but the enigmatic striker made up for it by heading in a Tavernier cross seconds before the break which changed the atmosphere again.

January signing Oscar Cortes, the 20-year-old Colombian signed on loan from Lens, replaced Matondo at half-time and in the 52nd minute had a decent drive parried clear by the over-worked Wickens, who soon tipped a long-range effort from Cantwell past the post.

The pressure on the County goal was relentless but just after the hour-mark, the Gers fans were relieved to see Michee Efete head a County corner over the bar when he should have worked ‘keeper Jack Butland.

Wickens made further saves from Lundstram, Lawrence and Dessers before the latter was replaced by Portuguese striker Fabio Silva.

John Souttar headed in a third for Rangers in stoppage time
Image: John Souttar headed in a third for Rangers in stoppage time

In the 74th minute Cortes missed the target from 12 yards and, amid a myriad of attempts on the County goal, Wickens denied Cantwell and Cortes again.

In the second of seven added minutes, Souttar headed in a Tavernier cross but there was to be no later drama and the chance to strike a psychological blow was gone.

Clement impressed with Rangers’ improvement

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Philippe Clement will look to focus on finishing after Rangers missed a host of chances in their 3-1 win over Ross County at Ibrox.

Rangers manager Philippe Clement:

“A really good victory and we see the team becoming better week after week, but every game can’t be better than the last as that’s impossible.

“We had a record today of shots on target, 23, and it was wave after wave, you can only do that if you do a really intensive job in attacking but also in defending.

“We gave one chance away and it was a goal, that’s a little bit unlucky but it was a really good game for Rangers.

“I think everyone who was in the stadium and who were there four months ago see a really big difference in the way the team is playing and creating chances. We need to continue that.

“Sometimes it’s like a bottle of ketchup, you push and push and in one moment everything comes out and in others not.

“The players have been showing quality for months, that doesn’t change with where we are in the table now.

“There is no reason to change the mentality, it’s about game by game.”

Cowie ‘proud’ of County against ‘excellent’ Rangers

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Ross County interim manager Don Cowie heaped praise on his players despite their 3-1 defeat to an

Ross County interim manager Don Cowie:

“It was a difficult night, but the boys put a lot of effort in and stood up to it and I’m proud of them.

“It’s always difficult for a team like Ross County when you come to a place like this, but when a team really fancies it you’ve got to stand up and be together and the boys did that.

“Of course, we can do things better and we’ll dissect that and look at it, but I don’t want to take anything away from Rangers as I thought they were outstanding.”

What’s next?

Sunday 18th February 11:00am Kick off 12:00pm

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Rangers’ next Scottish Premiership match is away to St Johnstone on Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off midday.

Ross County are away to Dundee on Saturday. Kick-off 3pm.

Source : Sky Sports