Sunday, December 27, 2009
Maurice Edu returned to Scottish Premier League action for the first time in six months as Rangers went on the road and thumped Hibernian at Easter Road in Edinburgh.
Edu came off the bench as a second half substitute in the 74th minute for head coach Walter Smith whose squad continued their prolific goal-scoring ways.
Fellow American DaMarcus Beasley was a late scratch for Sunday's affair after suffering a thigh strain in training on Saturday. Kyle Lafferty took Beasley's place in the starting 11 and it is uncertain as to whether or not the US winger will be available for Wednesday's clash with Dundee United.
The four goal effort was the fifth match in a row that the Light Blues have tallied at least three goals, however the contest versus the Hibees started off with a much more ominous tone.
It took just 12 seconds for the hosts to get on the scoreboard when Anthony Stokes received a pass from Merouane Zemmama from the right side of the penalty area and sent a shot towards the lower left corner past goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
Rather than allowing the early strike to rattle them, Rangers seemed to settle down after the Stokes score and quickly shook off the notion that they would suffer from a Christmas hangover.
Kenny Miller evened things up in the 21st minute when Kris Boyd found his fellow forward slicing towards the area allowing Miller to one touch and rip a shot past Hibs' goalkeeper Yves Ma-Kalambay.
The visitors doubled the margin 16 minutes later when defender Madjid Bougherra combined with Kirk Broadfoot to set up Boyd for the second goal.
With some help from Broadfoot, the Algerian stripped Hibs of possession in their own half and quickly crossed a pass to Boyd who did not hesitate with a shot that barreled past Ma-Kalambay.
Rangers emerged out of the locker room for the second half with the sole purpose of adding to their lead which came to pass in the 52nd minute courtesy of Nacho Novo who darted down the left side and sent a shot just inside the near post.
It looked as if the entire Hibernian defense expected the Galician to cross to Boyd but Novo too it upon himself to do the honors. The goal was a just reward for the midfielder who was superb all afternoon while cutting up Hibs' defense on the left side of the field.
Miller added his second of the match in the 66th taking in another pass from Boyd before sending a trickling shot past Hibs' Belgian netminder.
Edu's moment came eight minutes later when he was substituted on in place of Lafferty. The Californian ran onto the field while the visiting crowd serenaded his name to commemorate his return to first team action.
Three minutes later Edu got his first touch on the ball and then nine minutes after that he sustained his first tackle since the surgery and showed no ill effects from the long layoff. One minute into stoppage time Edu looked to give the Glasgow club their fifth goal of the evening but his pass for Boyd was stolen by the hosts' defense.
The victory keeps Smith's squad at the top of the SPL standings by four points over Old Firm rivals Celtic. The two will do battle next weekend however a midweek contest at Ibrox Stadium versus Dundee United is next on the docket for the American duo and their teammates.