St Mirren 0-4 Rangers: Kemar Roofe’s hat-trick and Joe Aribo secure victory for Gers in Paisley
If Kemar Roofe lacks the physical presence of Alfredo Morelos there can be no question over his predatory nose for goal.
The loss of the talismanic Colombian for the rest of the season raised questions over the capacity of Rangers to sustain a challenge to Celtic.
To that end a first hat-trick for Jamaican international Roofe in a light blue shirt not only kept the title race alive. Taking his tally to 15 for the season it sustained Rangers hopes of averting a nondescript end to their domestic season.
Rangers secured a 4-0 win over St Mirren on Sunday afternoon to keep their title hopes alive
Kemar Roofe headed home inside two minutes to put Rangers 1-0 up against St Mirren
Reducing the deficit at the top of the table to six points the next league game at Parkhead will be more testing than this one-sided affair against a St Mirren team plunging faster than the value of the Russian rouble.
Defeat to the league leaders would end any realistic hope of retaining the championship. Before then come two huge games against Braga in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final and a Scottish Cup semi-final against Ange Postecoglou’s side at Hampden.
Progress in Europe and the denial of a Celtic treble would go some way to lifting the slightly doom-laden outlook of recent weeks. Failure would render the respite provided by this one-sided win in Paisley short-lived and futile.
Three points over a St Mirren side peering anxiously over their shoulders at St Johnstone in the relegation play-off place came at a cost.
Roofe then put his side two goals to the good on the stroke of half-time in Paisley on Sunday
The 29-year-old was in fine goalscoring form and filled the shoes of star Alfredo Morelos
Midfielder John Lundstram lasted 25 minutes before limping from the field with a muscle injury.
Recently returned from a long-term knee injury Swedish international defender Filip Helander also had to be helped gingerly from the pitch moments before Rangers put the game to bed with a second Roofe goal in the fourth minute of first half added time.
Beaten by Celtic and Sporting Braga in their last two games fears of a third straight Rangers defeat were pretty much banished after a minute and 48 seconds.
Their top six hopes ended by results elsewhere on Saturday St Mirren entered this game with one win in their last eight matches, a strategy of denying Rangers a goal for as long as possible shot to bits in under two minutes.
James Tavernier’s fizzing cross from the right made its way all the way to the far side of the area. Ryan Kent gathered and crossed for Roofe to exploit ponderous St Mirren defending and head Rangers into the lead with his 14th goal of the season.
He later fired low past St Mirren goalkeeper Dean Lyness from close range to make it 3-0
Roofe was congratulated with his teams after netting his ha-trick and third of the game
Any threat to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side came from injury rather than St Mirren. John Lundstram was first to pull up after 25 minutes, collapsing to the turf after a challenge on Jordan Jones.
A huge roar followed the arrival of Steven Davis, the veteran Northern Irishman making his first Rangers appearance since the Scottish Cup win over Annan on February 12.
In a low key first half the Rangers lead was largely unthreatened. Despite going with the three up front of Brophy, Jordan Jones and Conor Ronan St Mirren posed little menace in the final third, the only first half chance coming for the home side for Jay Henderson after 41 minutes.
The young midfielder failed to make a connection with a Jones cross towards the back post and Rangers seemed to heed the mild warning.
Aaron Ramsey wasn’t signed at significant cost for games against St Mirren. Left out of the Europa League defeat in Portugal the Welsh international had two chances to make an impact before leaving the fray at half-time and wasted both.
The second looked a sitter, the midfielder smashing a glorious chance off the crossbar after unselfish play by Roofe.
Aaron Ramsey thought he netted only for the Welshman to see his side foot finish hit the bar
Ryan Kent was also in fine form for Gers before be replaced with the Europa League in mind
Rangers refused to dwell on the misfortune. Seconds later Roofe claimed his second goal of the game with another pinpoint header from a cross. It came, this time, from the right side from captain James Tavernier.
Planting the ball beyond stand-in St Mirren keeper Dean Lyness the outcome was the same.
The points in the bag, the name of the game for Giovanni van Bronkhorst was leaving Paisley with as much fuel in the tank as possible.
With Lundstram already a casualty the sight of Filip Helander limping from the pitch after Eamonn Brophy landed awkwardly on the Swede was unwelcome.
The damage looked bad, 18-year-old Leon King sent on as a replacement for only his fifth first team appearance.
To avert more damage to influential players the Rangers manager moved quickly at half-time.
Ryan Kent and Aaron Ramsey were replaced by Scott Wright and James Sands. Amad Diallo was the fifth change, replacing Roofe after the striker claimed his first Rangers hat-trick.
Joe Aribo’s sublime curler 14 minutes from time capped off the victory for rampant Rangers
Aribo netted his 25th goal of the campaign, and proved why he is a key player for the club
The matchball was secured six minutes into the second half, Fashion Sakala’s driven low cross from the left spinning kindly off the inside leg of Joe Shaughnessy for the striker to rattle the ball into the net.
While a hat-trick does the confidence of the £4million striker no harm whatsoever the bigger questions surrounding his physicality in big games will be answered in the next fortnight.
The traffic heading in one direction Rangers blew a number of chances to match Celtic’s seven goal margin of victory on Saturday.
A sublime curling strike Joe Aribo into the top corner after 76 minutes – a peach of a goal – added a more satisfying gloss to the scoreline, but made no real difference to the situation facing either of these two teams.
Rangers’ Giovanni van Bronckhorst was delighted with his side’s performances at full-time
In serious danger of being dragged into a relegation dog-fight St Mirren face a few questions of their own after failing to lay a glove on the champions.
A deflected Alex Gogic strike created a scramble for Allan McGregor, the Rangers keeper finally before forced into a save of note from Saints substitute Alex Greive in the final minutes.
For both of these teams critical challenges lie in wait in the coming weeks. Rangers can feel a little better about themselves than a St Mirren side with one win to their name since the arrival of Stephen Robinson as manager.
St Mirren: Lyness 5; Tait 5, Shaughnessy 4, Dunne 4 (McCarthy 45 5) , Fraser 5; Power 5, Gogic 5, Henderson 5 (Greive 63 3), Ronan 6, Brophy 4 (Main 63 2), Jones 4 (Erhahon 78 2)
Subs: Urminsky, Thompson, Smyth, Gallagher, Gilmartin
Rangers: McGregor 6; Tavernier 7, Goldson 6, Helander 4 (King 45 4), Barisic 5; Lundstram 3 (Davis 25 5), Ramsey 4 (Sands 45 5), Aribo 7; Kent 6 (Wright 45 5) , Roofe 8 (Diallo 63) , Sakala 6.
Subs: McLaughlin, Diallo, Kamara, Balogun, Arfield
Referee: John Beaton
Star Man: Kemar Roofe (Rangers)
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