By Ronnie Esplin, PA
Antonio Colak continued his scoring form with a double as Rangers returned to domestic duties after European euphoria with a comprehensive 4-0 home win over Ross County.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side qualified for the Champions League by beating PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday night thanks to a solitary goal from the 28-year-old striker.
Back in the cinch Premiership, midfielder John Lundstram opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a deflected 25-yard drive before in-form Croatia forward Colak scored a second in 39 minutes.
While Gers defender James Sands was perhaps lucky to escape picking up a second yellow card when the match was goalless and before he was substituted at the interval, Colak added a third just before the hour mark for his seventh goal in seven games and late substitute Steven Davis knocked in a fourth with 10 minutes remaining.
The Light Blues moved one point above Celtic, who play Dundee United at Tannadice on Sunday with the chance to reclaim top spot.
There was an air of positivity around Ibrox following the midweek triumph in Eindhoven.
Colombia striker Alfredo Morelos – left out of the PSV game due to fitness issues and attitude – was suspended and Gers showed one change, Scott Wright replacing Glen Kamara who was nursing a knee problem.
As expected, Rangers grabbed the game from the kick-off against a County side who had Jack Baldwin and midfielder Ross Callachan suspended but it was no blitzkrieg.
Winger Ryan Kent fired just over the bar from the edge of the box in the second minute and Staggies keeper Ross Laidlaw denied Gers defender Connor Goldson from close range seven minutes later.
Referee Don Robertson ignored County claims when Sands, already booked for a foul on Jordy Hiwula, appeared to grab the striker to prevent him getting a clear run on goal.
Laidlaw saved a couple of efforts from the elegant Gers attacker Malik Tillman before Lundstram eventually beat the County keeper, taking a pass from Kent and firing in from distance with the help of a deflection for his first goal of the season.
Colak missed a decent opportunity to get his shot away as Rangers increased the tempo but from Wright’s cut-back, the Croatia striker lifted the ball over Laidlaw and in at the far post.
Rangers ended the half with skipper James Tavernier leaping at the back post to head a Kent cross off the bar.
Leon King replaced Sands for the start of the second half as it appeared van Bronckhorst did not want to risk another card while, for County, Jordan Tillson came on for Victor Loturi.
The County penalty area was put under siege.
Staggies defender Ben Purrington headed a curling shot from Kent off the line but the winger soon set up Colak with a clever pass at the edge of the box for the striker to thrash the ball from 15 yards past Laidlaw.
Scott Arfield and Rabbi Matondo replaced Kent and Tillman to give the home side fresh legs.
Laidlaw made saves from a deflected Tom Lawrence shot and a close-range drive from Colak, who was to be definitely denied his hat-trick when he was replaced by veteran midfielder Davis.
The 37-year-old converted a Tavernier pass from 14 yards and there was time for Laidlaw to grab Arfield’s attempted lob out of the air to prevent a fifth.