James Tavernier penalty sets Rangers on way to win over 10-man St Johnstone

Glen Kamara was also on the scoresheet in a game marked by controversy.

James Tavernier penalty sets Rangers on way to win over 10-man St Johnstone SNS Group

Rangers eased past 10-man St Johnstone with a 2-0 victory in a controversial cinch Premiership encounter at Ibrox.

On the day that Todd Cantwell made his Rangers debut, skipper James Tavernier smashed home a penalty in the 15th minute before referee Willie Collum took centre stage.

He showed a straight red card to Saints striker Nicky Clark in the 33rd minute for a foul on Gers midfielder Ryan Jack, with the VAR check upholding the decision.

Collum then stuck with his decision to give Jack a yellow card for a late tackle on Adam Montgomery after checking the pitchside monitor.

Midfielder Glen Kamara added a second Rangers goal after 57 minutes to take the Govan side to within six points of league leaders Celtic, who play at Dundee United on Sunday.

Michael Beale’s record since taking over as Gers boss is almost flawless, with nine wins and a draw in 10 matches, while Callum Davidson’s side, knocked out of the Scottish Cup by the Light Blues in Perth last weekend, have now lost seven games in a row.

Cantwell had not played since November 12 but was thrust into the starting line-up in place of Fashion Sakala, while Kamara replaced John Lundstram.

The 24-year-old midfielder signed from Norwich had plenty of touches in the early stages.

The home side’s first chance came in the sixth minute when Malik Tillman sent Alfredo Morelos through on goal, but an unconvincing strike was blocked by St Johnstone goalkeeper Remi Matthews, who thwarted the Colombian striker six minutes later after the Saints defence was opened up again.

The Rangers penalty, awarded after the ball struck defender James Brown on the arm after coming off Tillman’s back, was confidently converted by Tavernier, who drove the ball high past Matthews.

The McDiarmid Park keeper continued his personal duel with Morelos and in the 22nd minute he blocked yet another shot from the striker after he had been sent clear on goal by Kamara.

However, Clark volleyed over the bar at the other end from a Connor McLennan cross minutes later to remind Rangers there was still plenty to do.

Matthews made a decent save from Ryan Kent’s drive before Saints were reduced to 10 men after former Gers striker Clark’s high tackle on Jack in the middle of the pitch left the Ibrox playmaker requiring treatment.

Saints boss Davidson was shown a yellow card by Collum for venting his frustrations before the referee was asked to check his monitor after showing Jack a yellow card for his hefty challenge on Montgomery. To some surprise he stuck by his decision, which did not amuse Davidson.

Matthews made a fine save from Tavernier’s free-kick just before the interval, but there was time for Drey Wright to race on to a Danny Phillips pass, round Gers keeper Allan McGregor and then fall over as he tried to squeeze the ball in from a tight angle.

To little surprise, Lundstram took over from Jack for the start of the second half, where Matthews again proved his worth, swatting away a Kent drive from close range after Tillman had set him up.

Rangers kept up the pressure and unmarked Kamara accepted a clever flick from Morelos and beat Matthews from 14 yards to effectively seal the win.

Sakala replaced Cantwell in the 62nd minute before McGregor made a good save from an Andy Considine header as the Perth men continued to battle.

There were huge cheers when Ianis Hagi, out for just over a year with a knee injury, came on along with Antonio Colak and Scott Wright, with Morelos, Kent and Tillman making way, but there was no change in the scoreline despite some relentless Rangers attacking.

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