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Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Sunday, 19 April 2009 15:54 UK

Hibernian 2-3 Rangers

By Thomas McGuigan

Andrius Velicka fired home the winner for Rangers
Andrius Velicka fired Rangers in front for the second time at Easter Road

Rangers edged past Hibernian to move within a point of Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic.

Without Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor, the Gers took the lead within two minutes in impressive style through Steven Whittaker's stunning volley.

Hibs deservedly equalised through Steven Fletcher's header but Andrius Velicka's drive nudged Rangers ahead.

Maurice Edu grabbed a third before John Rankin reduced the deficit with a rasping drive but the visitors held on.

Ferguson and McGregor were glaring omissions from the Rangers squad before the game, having served their two-match club suspension for a breach of discipline while on international duty with Scotland.

Nevertheless, the duo's absence failed to knock the visitors off their stride and they got off to a dream start within two minutes.

Chris Hogg's clearing header landed in front of Whittaker outside the box and he controlled with his thigh before thundering a left-foot volley past a bewildered-looking Grzegorz Szamotulski that struck the underside of the bar on its way into the net.

Hibs midfielder Derek Riordan flashed a right-foot shot just wide of the post in the seventh minute as the hosts looked to make a quick recovery.

But it was Rangers who should have doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Edu failed to get his head on the end of Steven Smith's teasing free-kick.

Steven Fletcher equalises for Hibs
Steven Fletcher equalised for Hibs with a glancing header

Hibs settled into their passing game soon after, but found it difficult to put keeper Neil Alexander under pressure as both sides attacked relentlessly.

Fletcher got a deserved equaliser after 33 minutes when he rose unchallenged in the box to glance Lewis Stevenson's cross into the bottom left-hand corner of Alexander's goal.

Former Rangers striker Jonathan Johansson, on for the injured Colin Nish, almost gave Hibs the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Alexander gathered his shot at the second attempt.

Rangers took the lead after 53 minutes with a goal out of nothing.

Velicka controlled Whittaker's long pass with his chest and sent a low, vicious shot inside Szamotulski's near post, with the Pole slow to react.

Boyd, chasing his 100th goal in a Rangers shirt, shot weakly at Szamotulski inside the six-yard box five minutes later when it looked easier to score.

Rangers' second goal appeared to knock the stuffing out of the previously free-flowing Hibs.

Alexander denied Riordan with a wonderful save with 22 minutes remaining as he palmed away the midfielder's low drive from inside the box after superb set-up play by Denes Rosa.

Rangers substitute Kenny Miller was denied by Szamotulski moments after coming on and Edu increased Rangers' lead with a close-range finish after Hibs failed to clear at the third time of asking.

Rankin ensured a nervy end to the game when he arrowed a superb 20-yard shot beyond Alexander, but Rangers held on to reduce the gap on leaders Celtic to a point.

Hibs manager Mixu Paatelainen:

"I thought it was a very entertaining match. Both teams wanted to score goals and attack. The tempo was brilliant. Whittaker's shot was one of those that's hit-and-hope, and it goes in off the bar.

"After that we had a fantastic response from our players and we passed the way we planned.

"A great glancing header from Steven Fletcher and we're back in the game. I was disappointed with the second goal; it was just a long ball forward.

"There were a few questions, but overall I'm absolutely delighted with the performance; the way we passed it and the way we moved.

"We caused Rangers problems and scored two fantastic goals. But I can't be happy if there are no points."

Rangers manager Walter Smith:

"We had a good start with a terrific goal from Steven Whittaker. Hibs played well without having a great number of opportunities; they were bright and put us under a wee bit of pressure.

"The first half was fairly even, although we maybe had the better opportunities to increase our lead.

"We improved after the break and, on chances overall, felt we did enough to win the game.

"Going anywhere after the SPL split will be difficult. We have the benefit of three games at home, but we'll have to be at our best to do well."

Hibernian: Szamotulski, van Zanten (O'Brien 82), Hogg, Jones, Stevenson, Rosa, Bamba, Rankin, Riordan, Nish (Johansson 42), Fletcher. Subs Not Used: Ma-Kalambay, Murray, Chisholm, McCormack, Thicot.

Booked: Stevenson, Jones.

Goals: Fletcher 34, Rankin 84.

Rangers: Alexander, Whittaker, Weir, Bougherra, Papac (Dailly 77), Davis, Edu, Mendes, Steven Smith, Boyd (Novo 88), Velicka (Miller 70). Subs Not Used: Graeme Smith, Niguez, Fleck, Little.

Goals: Whittaker 2, Velicka 52, Edu 73.

Att: 14,014

Ref: S Conroy

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see also
SPL as it happened
19 Apr 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
19 Apr 09 |  Scottish Premier

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