Alfredo Morelos’ 17th goal of the season handed Rangers a 2-1 victory over Hearts as Steven Gerrard’s 10-man outfit climbed top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

With leaders Celtic busy on Betfred Cup final duty, the Ibrox men travelled to Tynecastle looking to grab the title race initiative against a side without a win in five games.

However, it appeared to be going all wrong as the Jambos ended their eight hour and 41-minute wait for a goal when Gareth McAuley put through his own net.

The Northern Ireland defender was bailed out, though, when his centre-back partner Connor Goldson bundled home the equaliser and Morelos clinched the win just before half-time.

Rangers, though, found themselves reduced to 10 men for the second game running when Scott Afrield was dismissed midway through the second period but there were no further scares as they saw out the win.

The return of Christophe Berra from a serious hamstring injury was among five changes to Craig Levein’s Hearts line-up. Gerrard also tinkered with his team, making four alterations to the side that drew with Villarreal on Thursday as McAuley started in defence.

Allan McGregor was Gers hero against the Spaniards in midweek and again had to bail out his side early on, first clawing away a Steven MacLean header before keeping out Arnaud Djoum’s attempt with another stunning stop.

But the Scotland number one could do nothing as the Gorgie men grabbed a deserved lead after 27 minutes.

Ovie Ejaria found himself smothered by three players as Hearts chased after their opponents again. Ollie Bozanic stole the ball before spraying it ball wide to Marcus Godinho after a quick exchange with MacLean.

The right-back was looking for the striker as he slid the ball into the danger zone but it was McAuley’s touch which sent it into the net.

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The goal was a wake-up call for Rangers, however, and they levelled after 35 minutes as Morelos nudged a James Tavernier corner to the back post where Goldson got the ball past Zdenek Zlamal and over the line at the second attempt.

There were further openings as Tavernier whipped a free-kick into side netting before Zlamal had to produce an important block as Arfield pounced among a ruck of bodies.

But it was the Light Blues who went in ahead at the interval as Morelos struck three minutes from the change of ends.

The Colombian started in an offside position as Tavernier lined up a free-kick wide on the right. The linesman failed to spot his encroachment and Morelos made the the most of the let-off as his side-foot shot took a nick off Bozanic before nestling into the far corner.

Morelos could have grabbed goal number 18 just moments after the restart but tugged wide while Godinho’s block was crucial to keep out Eros Grezda.

Hearts were thrown a lifeline with 19 minutes left as Arfield got his marching orders for a ridiculous challenge on Zlamal.

The keeper had done brilliantly to block to efforts from Daniel Candeias and Morelos but found himself clobbered while holding the ball flat on the ground as Arfield steamed in looking to force it over the line.

It was Gers who remained on the front foot, though. Tavernier saw another free-kick blocked while McAuley failed to force through a back post header.

Morelos was flagged offside as he tapped home from another Zlamal parry but despite five minutes of injury time Hearts could not make the most of their man advantage.

– PA

Sourse: breakingnews.ie

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