Michael Beale says Rangers could have scored eight goals as they produced their best attacking display of his tenure to blow away Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership.
Connor Goldson’s own goal put Hibs in front, but James Tavernier levelled from the spot and from there Rangers overwhelmed their in-form hosts.
Antonio Colak tapped in his first league goal since October, and added another after the outstanding Fashion Sakala had made it 3-1, and it could have been a lot more.
“I thought Hibs would come and take the game and they did,” Beale told BBC Scotland. “We were really poor for one moment tonight which was the set play.
“But the response was fantastic and we scored four and could have scored double that.
“You can see the two new signings [Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin] looking excellent and getting up to match speed. The three games this week will help them. The squad’s looking quite strong.”
Despite a dominant performance and impressive league form by Rangers, the gap to leaders Celtic remains nine points with 10 games left to play.
Hibs – who were unbeaten in seven in the league – stay fourth, five points behind their Edinburgh rivals Hearts.
It looked like it could be a rousing night for Hibs at Easter Road, as fans sang an emotional rendition of club anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ when the players emerged as a tribute to owner Ron Gordon, who died a fortnight ago.
The players initially carried that energy into the game, as Matthew Hoppe went close himself before his cross was turned into the net by Goldson, past his own goalkeeper.
But that was as good as it got for Hibs, as Rangers hit back almost instantly when Ryan Kent drew a foul from CJ Egan-Riley in the box.
Tavernier converted the penalty – awarded after a VAR check – and after a series of missed chances and an outstanding save from David Marshall to deny Borna Barisic, Colak finished first-time from Sakala’s low cross.
Sakala, playing mostly on the left of a fluid front three, was outstanding and was duly rewarded with a goal after the break as he shimmied and blasted home after Ryan Jack cut out Marshall’s poor clearance.
And as Hibs faded badly, Kent and then Sakala found space in a congested box to tee up Colak, who squeezed the ball into the bottom corner for his 13th Premiership goal this season.
It should have been more for Beale’s men, but this was much more like the level he wants from his team as they registered 31 shots on goal.
Player of the match – Fashion Sakala
Rangers front three terrorise Hibs – analysis
Rangers were fluid and exciting to watch at Tynecastle last month, but this was arguably even better.
Deploying Sakala on the left, with Kent shifting into the middle and Colak playing on the right worked brilliantly as Hibs had no idea how to handle the trio’s movement.
Sakala showed exactly how good he can be amid some inconsistent displays as he provided a constant threat, and would have come away with more than two assists if his team-mates’ finishing was more accurate.
Nicolas Raskin was industrious in midfield and always looked forward, giving another glimpse of what he can offer for the remainder of the season and next as he gets up to full fitness.
After a period of negativity following the chastening Viaplay Cup final loss to Celtic, this was a show of what Rangers can be. But they need to do it on a more consistent basis – even if league results have been near perfect under Beale.
Hibs, meanwhile, were disappointing. Having won four of their last five games and drawn the other, there was a sense they could put Rangers under pressure here.
But as soon as they conceded so quickly after going behind, their chances faded rapidly. Arguably – like others who sensed a vulnerability in Rangers at points this season – they were too open.
However, they need to move on, with third place still a realistic prospect.
What they said
Hibernian manager Lee Johnson: “I think we lacked a bit of composure. It’s a higher quality of team we played tonight than we have recently when we’ve been on a good run.
“I went into this game truly believing we could get a result. It was a really good start and charged with a lot of emotion and a brilliant tribute to Ron. But inevitably in the end their quality shone through on an individual and team level.
Rangers manager Michael Beale: “The defensive pressing and organisation to regain the ball set us up well. I thought Hibs would come and take the game and they did. We were really poor for one moment tonight, which was the set play.
“But the response was fantastic and we scored four and could have scored double that.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Hibs as they travel to leaders Celtic on 18 March after a week off, while Rangers play their Scottish Cup quarter-final against Raith Rovers at Ibrox this Sunday (13:00 GMT).
- 4HanlonBooked at 75mins
- 16StevensonBooked at 60minsSubstituted forCabrajaat 70′minutes
- 18HendersonSubstituted forMcKirdyat 84′minutes
- 23YouanSubstituted forKukharevychat 59′minutes
- 13HoppeSubstituted forNisbetat 59′minutes
- 10Vieira Tavares
- 13CantwellSubstituted forLundstramat 78′minutes
- 14KentSubstituted forWrightat 77′minutes
- 43RaskinSubstituted forArfieldat 78′minutes
- 9ColakSubstituted forMorelosat 78′minutes
- 30SakalaSubstituted forHagiat 77′minutes
- Don Robertson
Match ends, Hibernian 1, Rangers 4.
Second Half ends, Hibernian 1, Rangers 4.
Foul by Alfredo Morelos (Rangers).
Josh Campbell (Hibernian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Scott Wright (Rangers) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by James Tavernier.
Scott Wright (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by William Fish (Hibernian).
Attempt saved. James Tavernier (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Scott Arfield.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by William Fish.
Corner, Hibernian. Conceded by Connor Goldson.
Attempt blocked. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Scott Wright.
Substitution, Hibernian. Harry McKirdy replaces Ewan Henderson.
Attempt saved. Ianis Hagi (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by John Lundstram.
Hand ball by Marijan Cabraja (Hibernian).
Attempt saved. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Ben Davies.
Ianis Hagi (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian).
Substitution, Rangers. John Lundstram replaces Todd Cantwell.
Substitution, Rangers. Alfredo Morelos replaces Antonio-Mirko Colak.
Substitution, Rangers. Scott Arfield replaces Nicolas Raskin.
Player of the match
Squad number25Player nameFish
Squad number1Player nameMarshall
Squad number4Player nameHanlon
Squad number26Player nameCJ Egan-Riley
Squad number12Player nameCadden
Squad number16Player nameStevenson
Squad number23Player nameYouan
Squad number32Player nameCampbell
Squad number14Player nameJeggo
Squad number13Player nameHoppe
Squad number18Player nameHenderson
Squad number15Player nameNisbet
Squad number3Player nameCabraja
Squad number99Player nameKukharevych
Squad number22Player nameMcKirdy
Squad number30Player nameSakala
Squad number8Player nameJack
Squad number9Player nameColak
Squad number43Player nameRaskin
Squad number14Player nameKent
Squad number13Player nameCantwell
Squad number31Player nameBarisic
Squad number2Player nameTavernier
Squad number26Player nameDavies
Squad number6Player nameGoldson
Squad number1Player nameMcGregor
Squad number7Player nameHagi
Squad number23Player nameWright
Squad number37Player nameArfield
Squad number4Player nameLundstram
Squad number20Player nameMorelos