Match ends, Rangers 2, St. Johnstone 0.
Rangers 2-0 St Johnstone: Philippe laments John Lundstram injury as hosts cut gap20 December 2023
Manager Philippe Clement lamented midfielder John Lundstram's injury after Rangers followed up their Viaplay Cup success by beating 10-man St Johnstone to move within two points of Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic.
First-half substitute Cyriel Dessers struck to put Clement's men in front and the visitors' task was made significantly harder when Diallang Jaiyesimi was sent off for a foul on Lundstram, who was replaced at the break.
The Perth side, who slip a place to ninth, restricted their hosts thereafter with goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov denying Dessers and Sam Lammers.
But James Tavernier converted a late penalty after Mitov fouled Dessers.
The Ibrox side, who were already without midfielders Jose Cifuentes and Ryan Jack, still have a game in hand on Celtic but will not play that match away to Hibernian until after the winter break.
"At first sight it doesn't look good so I hope I can recover him before the winter break," said Clement of Lundstram.
"It's another player who is kicked off the pitch, so I am really frustrated with that. It's his ankle so we will see in the next couple of days what will happen.
"It clearly wasn't a good challenge with your studs forward like that. We had an even worse one later in the game when the guy luckily hit the ball and not my player [Dan Phillips on Kieran Dowell], the intensity there was to break a leg. Those things are not good for football."
Rangers were limited to long-range efforts early on and, from one, Kemar Roofe had a shot blocked by Andy Considine, then had to be withdrawn. It was the latest injury setback in a hugely frustrating 18 months for the Jamaica forward.
A Rangers corner opened up a chance for John Souttar, but his shot could not breach the sea of bodies in front of goal.
The hosts were searching for any kind of opening and when Oludare Olufunwa could not cut out Tavernier's cross, Dessers was on hand to knock the ball through Mitov's legs.
St Johnstone took another blow when Jaiyesimi saw red for catching Lundstram's ankle late, VAR upgrading the on-field decision of a yellow card.
Another Dessers shot, deflected, brought Mitov into action and the goalkeeper also had to hold a fierce Kieran Dowell effort moments later, the midfielder making his first start since August.
Fresh from his cup final winner against Aberdeen on Sunday, Tavernier flashed an effort wide as Saints continued to toil.
Rangers continued where they left off after the break with Mitov excelling with a block on Lammers' shot from close range.
Dessers tested the goalkeeper from the edge of the box, Lammers was foiled with a bouncing shot and Abdallah Sima and Tavernier were off target in quick succession.
But the clincher eventually came. Substitute Scott Wright released Dessers on goal and, after he was tripped by Mitov, captain Tavernier struck confidently from 12 yards.
Player of the match - Kieran DowellThe midfielder made a positive impact with vision and some nice touches once allowed to play higher up the pitch
Saints can't recover from punishing five minutes - analysis
Losing Jaiyesimi so soon after going a goal down really limited St Johnstone's ambition and from that moment on, Rangers found the spaces they had not come across in the opening 25 minutes.
Chris Kane was sent on in place of midfielder Sven Sprangler to give Saints some presence in attack and the substitute won valuable possession and the odd free-kick to take the pressure off his defensive colleagues.
Rangers' third game inside seven days, with a raft of changes before and during the game, appeared to take its toll. The hosts' tempo faded against a low block and by the end there was a nervousness as the visitors occasionally moved upfield.
But crucially they kept probing and eventually made the game safe.
What the managers said
Rangers manager Philippe Clement: "In the end it was a clear, clear dominant game where we had the ball all the time, also 11 against 11. It's not easy to break a defence of so many players in such a small space close to their goal, to break it open. We did two times and several times more but there was also a good goalkeeper.
"[Kemar Roofe is] very disappointed because he was coming back in a good way. We're going to look at that in depth."
St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: "With us being reduced to 10 men for over an hour, to come away from here only losing two goals, the players deserve a lot of credit for that, for the work that they put in.
"[The red card] made it extremely difficult for the players out there. We were very competitive and all credit to the players for digging in and helping each other out and working so hard."
Rangers visit Motherwell on Sunday (12:00 GMT). St Johnstone's last match before Christmas is on Saturday away to Kilmarnock (15:00).
- 2TavernierSubstituted forKingat 86'minutes
- 6GoldsonBooked at 45mins
- 4LundstramSubstituted forSterlingat 45'minutes
- 14LammersSubstituted forCantwellat 68'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 19SimaSubstituted forWrightat 68'minutes
- 25RoofeSubstituted forDessersat 16'minutes
- 46FranczakSubstituted forGallacherat 60'minutes
- 17OlufunwaSubstituted forMcGowanat 72'minutes
- 34PhillipsBooked at 45minsSubstituted forCareyat 72'minutes
- 23SpranglerSubstituted forKaneat 35'minutes
- 22SmithBooked at 38minsSubstituted forCostelloeat 72'minutes
- 13JaiyesimiBooked at 33mins
- Alan Muir
Second Half ends, Rangers 2, St. Johnstone 0.
This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/67247476?at_medium=RSS&at_campaign=KARANGA