Rangers close in on Celtic after Ibrox win over St Johnstone

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Rangers moved to within two points of cinch Premiership leaders Celtic with a comfortable 2-0 win over 10-man St Johnstone at Ibrox.

Philippe Clement, who had picked up his first trophy as Rangers boss on Sunday after the 1-0 Viaplay Cup final win over Aberdeen at Hampden Park, watched helplessly as luckless striker Kemar Roofe went off after just 16 minutes with another injury.

However, replacement Cyriel Dessers fired the Light Blues ahead in the 28th minute before Saints forward Diallang Jaiyesimi was almost immediately sent off for a hefty challenge on midfielder John Lundstram following a VAR intervention.

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The dominant Light Blues doubled their lead in the 84th minute with a penalty from skipper James Tavernier, who had scored the winner at Hampden, and Rangers moved tantalisingly closer to the Hoops with a game in hand.

Rangers' Cyriel Dessers opened the scoring in a 2-0 victory over St Johnstone in the cinch Premiership at IbroxRangers' Cyriel Dessers opened the scoring in a 2-0 victory over St Johnstone in the cinch Premiership at Ibrox
Rangers' Cyriel Dessers opened the scoring in a 2-0 victory over St Johnstone in the cinch Premiership at Ibrox

As expected Clement shuffled his pack again.

Kieran Dowell made just his third start of the season in midfield as John Souttar, Ridvan Yilmaz, Sam Lammers and Roofe made up the five changes from the starting line-up at Hampden while Saints boss Craig Levein brought back Andy Considine, Oludare Olufunwa and Sven Sprangler.

After barely a minute of a strangely low-key start to the match, Souttar required a lengthy spell of treatment for a facial injury after clashing with Max Kucheriavyi but there was more distressing injury news soon on its way for the home side.

Roofe, making his first start since October 8, had a couple of attempts on goal before he had to go off and the striker looked distraught, with Dessers taking over.

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Rangers had the bulk of possession with the game played in the Perth side's half but the Saints defence looked organised and disciplined until Olufunwa missed a cross from Tavernier which allowed Dessers to knock the ball past goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov and a VAR check confirmed there was no offside.

Almost straight from kick-off Jaiyesimi crunched Lundstram and VAR checked for serious foul play after referee Alan Muir gave the Englishman, on loan from Charlton, a yellow card.

The official checked the pitchside monitor and upgraded the yellow to a red, with Chris Kane soon coming on for Sprangler as Levein reshuffled.

Mitov saved a decent drive from Dessers in the 36th minute and Tavernier fired wide of the far post in added time but there was no sustained pressure on the Saints goal.

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Lundstram stayed inside at the interval - where Santa got cheered from the Light Blues fans when he came out with the Viaplay Cup - with Dujon Sterling taking over and within minutes Rangers attacker Abdallah Sima volleyed a Tavernier corner just past the post before Mitov made a series of fine saves from Lammers, twice, and Dessers.

Sima missed the target with another effort in the 66th minute before being replaced by Scott Wright with Todd Cantwell on for Lammers.

There were further efforts from Cantwell and Tavernier before Mitov clearly brought down Dessers inside the box with the Rangers captain slamming the spot-kick low into the corner.