Defoe bags hat-trick as Rangers go top of the table
Jermain Defoe's hat-trick helped fire Rangers to the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership after a one-sided 5-0 victory over Hamilton at Ibrox.
Connor Goldson's header and a Borna Barisic free-kick added to the rout as Rangers moved two points above Celtic going into the international break.
Celtic's shock defeat at Livingston earlier on Sunday handed Steven Gerrard's team the chance to hit the summit for the first time this season and they came out in determined fashion.
Hamilton had already survived several dangerous balls into their box before being cut open by Greg Stewart's through ball in the seventh minute.
Defoe chipped the ball over the diving Owain Fon Williams and in off the post.
Accies survived a torrid opening 20 minutes without conceding again with Sheyi Ojo and Stewart coming close from long range, and they had a major let-off when Defoe volleyed against the post from four yards following a quickly-taken corner.
Hamilton were crowding their penalty box but Rangers had the freedom to spread the ball about in front of them, and Goldson doubled their lead in the 34th minute after a long-range one-two.
The centre-back started running after passing the ball out wide to James Tavernier from midway inside the opposition half and dived to head home his captain's cross from six yards.
"We shall not be moved" rang out around Ibrox and it was clear Hamilton were not going to threaten that assertion, although Ronan Hughes fired just over after Goldson's goal.
The home fans gave former Ibrox midfielder Paul Gascoigne a rousing reception as he conducted the half-time draw and they were soon on their feet again.
Rangers remained in complete control after the break and Barisic curled the ball home from 25 yards after 61 minutes.
Defoe turned Brian Easton two minutes later before slotting home and the striker slammed the ball high into the net after 71 minutes after Stewart had been denied by Fon Williams.
Rangers have now scored 17 goals in four league wins since losing to Celtic at Ibrox and the scoreline could have been even more painful for the visitors - Scott Arfield alone came close on five occasions in the second half and substitute Alfredo Morelos also forced a good save.
There was a further positive for Rangers as Gerrard handed Jamie Murphy a first-team comeback as a 64th-minute substitute, almost 14 months after the wide player suffered a serious knee injury at Kilmarnock.
Belfast Telegraph Digital