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Hibernian 0 Rangers 2 (SPL) 10th December 2011

Nikica Jelavic was Rangers hero today with two goals

A second-half brace from Nikica Jelavic gave Rangers a crucial victory over Pat Fenlon’s Hibs at Easter Road.

The Croatian took his tally for the season to 14 by hitting the net from the penalty spot on 61 minutes before adding a second seven minutes later, bulleting a downward header past Graham Stack to ensure the champions left the capital with all three points.

The introduction of Thomas Bendiksen prior to the hour mark was crucial for the Light Blues after they had struggled to unlock a stubborn Hibs backline in a poor first half in which clear cut goalscoring opportunities were virtually non-existent.

With six minutes on the clock Steven Whittaker attempted to get on the end of a deep, swerving cross from Wylde but Paul Hanlon did well to keep his eye on the ball and clear while under pressure from the Gers full back.

Mo Edu, meanwhile, picked up the first yellow card of the game for a challenge on O’Connor but the decision by Iain Brines to book the American in the ninth minute for an innocuous tackle seemed harsh.

Those moments aside there was not a lot to report with a lot of the action taking place in a packed midfield area and lone strikers Jelavic and Garry O’Connor isolated from the action.

On 33 minutes, however, the game opened up briefly and when Isaiah Osbourne found Ivan Sproure free on the left wing it was Steven Davis that tracked back and displayed his impressive defensive qualities.

The Northern Irishman’s sliding tackle on his fellow countryman started a counter attack and David Wotherspoon was guilty of a pull on Edu’s jersey which halted the danger.

Kyle Bartley was next to go in the official’s notebook for a late challenge, again on O’Connor, but just as the half time whistle approached Hibs had a great chance to break the deadlock.

Sproule used his pace to good effect to get beyond Whittaker and his cut back was fresh aired by Wallace.

The ball arrived at the unmarked Leigh Griffiths but his weak left foot shot from 14 yards was straight at McGregor to the dismay of the home bench.

This passage of play, however, clearly boosted the confidence of Fenlon’s men who came out of the traps quickly at the restart and immediately looked to put the Gers backline under pressure.

The Light Blues were struggling to get out of their half and on 54 minutes a rash tackle by Bocanegra on Osbourne produced the fourth yellow card of the game and that was enough for McCoist who immediately made a change with Bendiksen replacing Bartley.

The move immediately paid dividends as it was the Norwegian youngster’s delicate chip over the defence to Lee Wallace that resulted in the penalty award.

Michael Hart was guilty of holding on to the Gers player’s arm as he twisted in the box and after the ref had pointed to the spot Jelavic despatched for his 13th goal of the campaign.

It was just what this game needed but on 61 minutes Hibs could, and probably should, have equalised when Sproule’s free-kick was headed over by the unmarked Hanlon from just six yards.

It was a glaring opportunity and the miss proved so costly as just seven minutes after the opening goal Jelavic again showed the home side how it is done.

A great corner from Wylde found the elusive striker who made a yard for himself before powering an accurate header past the helpless Stack.

This was far fom being a vintage display from the visitors but getting another away victory was all that mattered for the Light Blues who return to Ibrox next weekend when Terry Butcher’s Inverness CT are the visitors to Ibrox.

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