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Morelos late show spares Rangers' blushes

St Johnstone 1 Rangers 2

Goal threat: Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Kyle Lafferty
Goal threat: Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Kyle Lafferty

By Andy Newport

Alfredo Morelos snatched victory for Rangers with an 88th-minute winner against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

Steven Gerrard's shot-shy Gers had toiled through the opening half in Perth and found themselves behind after Matty Kennedy put Tommy Wright's team in front on the stroke of half-time.

But the Ibrox boss gambled when he brought on Kyle Lafferty to partner Morelos up front and the Light Blues' pressure eventually paid off as the Colombian pounced twice.

"We need a 90-minute performance for the next two games now," said Gerrard.

"I need the Rangers for the 90 minutes against Hibs last week and I need to see the performance from the second half today for the whole of the next two games."

Saints boss Wright said: "There's huge pride in how we played but huge disappointment that we didn't get anything from the game because I felt we deserved something.

"We didn't give Rangers many opportunities for long parts of the game and they've had to change and go two up front.

"We defended well for most of the game and were a real threat. We could have gone 2-1 in front but unfortunately they go up the pitch and score."

Gers' lack of cutting edge was starting to worry Gerrard on the back of a dry spell that had seen his side manage just one goal from open play in their previous seven games.

The drought continued through another 45 minutes in which the Light Blues had plenty of possession but few ideas on how to open up Saints.

Instead it was Wright who was left looking satisfied as his side weathered the early stages.

The Northern Irishman had a couple of moments of frustration though as Saints passed up two golden opportunities to open the scoring.

Joe Worrall and Connor Goldson both hesitated after 22 minutes as David Wotherspoon fired a ball into Kennedy, allowing the striker to clip a pass into Murray Davidson's path but his lob sailed over Allan McGregor's crossbar.

Liam Craig's miss four minutes later was even worse as he somehow failed to bury a back-post header from almost point-blank range.

Gers had a couple of half chances but saw Ross McCrorie fire over before Eros Grezda got in the way of a Morelos strike.

But Saints finally got the goal they deserved on the stroke of half-time. Scott Tanser's cross bounced off Goldson's head and landed at Kennedy's feet. Andy Halliday bought his dummy as the former Kilmarnock and Cardiff striker cut inside to lash into the roof of the net.

Gerrard had had enough of Grezda's ineffectiveness and hooked the Albanian at the break, replacing him with youngster Glenn Middleton. Lafferty was then added to the mix at Lassana Coulibaly's expense after 11 more blunt minutes.

It took until 66 minutes but the Ibrox boss finally got the reaction he was looking for as Morelos levelled up.

Goldson sprayed the ball wide to Middleton and winger immediately made for the by-line before standing up a cross into the six-yard box that was begging to be thudded home by the Colombian with his head.

Shortly after McGregor had to parry a Blair Alston effort at one end before Saints stopper Zander Clark produced a breathtaking double-save to keep out Daniel Candeias and Lafferty.

But with the seconds ticking away Morelos got in front of his marker to fire a Tavernier cross past the crestfallen Clark to seal victory for Rangers.

St Johnstone: Clark, Tanser, Alston, Shaughnessy, Davidson, Wotherspoon (Watt, 74 mins) Kerr, Foster, Craig, Callachan, Kennedy (Swanson, 81 mins). Unused subs: Hurst, Anderson, McMillan, Nydam, Gordon.

RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Worrall, Goldson, Barisic (Wallace, 41 mins), McCrorie, Halliday, Coulibaly (Lafferty, 56 mins), Candeias, Grezda (Middleton, 46 mins), Morelos. Unused subs: Foderingham, Flanagan, Rossiter, Katic.

Referee: Nick Walsh

Man of the match: Alfredo Morelos

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph


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