James Tavernier again underlined his player-of-the-year credentials with another goal and an assist in Rangers’ 2-1 win over Dundee United. The captain scored with one sensational free-kick for his 17th goal of the season and then swung in another for Connor Goldson’s winner at Tannadice.
That was the 13th goal the right-back has set up this season and it is looking more and more like this will be Rangers’ year to break Celtic’s long stranglehold on the Premiership title after Steven Gerrard’s team overcame this latest examination of their character.
Liam Smith equalised for the hosts but Rangers again found a way to come through as they maintained a firm grip on the title race. The only concern for Gerrard will be the form and behaviour of Alfredo Morelos, who missed a glorious chance to put Gers further ahead in the second half, having escaped punishment for what appeared to be an elbow on United defender Mark Connolly.
Gerrard had talked up his side’s new-found discipline but this was a return to bad habits for the Colombian, who was lucky referee Steven McLean missed the full impact.
The Ibrox manager brought back six of his key men – including Tavernier – after giving them the night off against Lech Poznan on Thursday night. United boss Micky Mellon was back in the dugout after his period in quarantine and made just one change to the team which lost to Livingston, with Jamie Robson taking Dillon Powers’ slot as he started at left-back.
The Rangers captain stepped with a moment of brilliance in the 26th minute. Connolly’s trip on Kemar Roofe was 30 yards out from goal but Tavernier found the whip to arc the free-kick over the wall and past Benjamin Siegrist for a sensational opener.
United responded with a well-worked goal of their own seven minutes later as Mellon’s team became the first Scottish side since Motherwell in September to net against Gerrard’s team. Ian Harkes sent the ball out wide for Robson. Borna Barisic had eyes only on Marc McNulty as the cross came in and totally missed Smith sneaking in behind him to fire the ball in off the far post.
But Gers were ahead a minute before the break as Tavernier again produced a big moment. Brought down by Adrian Sporle, it was the skipper’s set-piece which found Goldson as the defender peeled towards the front post to flick home with his head.