Soccer

Rangers keep pursuit of Celtic on track despite early scare against Dundee

Cyriel Dessers celebrates after his equaliser for Rangers against Dundee (Steve Welsh/PA)
Cyriel Dessers celebrates after his equaliser for Rangers against Dundee (Steve Welsh/PA) Cyriel Dessers celebrates after his equaliser for Rangers against Dundee (Steve Welsh/PA)

Rangers survived an early setback to beat Dundee 3-1 in an eventful cinch Premiership encounter at Ibrox.

Striker Amadou Bakayoko stunned the home fans in the fifth minute but the Light Blues responded with goals from forward Cyriel Dessers, skipper James Tavernier – with a penalty awarded by VAR – and attacker Abdallah Sima.

Gers midfielder Jose Cifuentes was sent off at the end of the first half after another VAR intervention saw a yellow card upgraded to red.

Abdallah Sima celebrates his goal against Dundee
Abdallah Sima celebrates his goal against Dundee Abdallah Sima celebrates his goal (Steve Welsh/PA)

Rangers played the second half with 10 men but could have increased their lead despite a valiant effort from the visitors. They move five points behind leaders Celtic, who play Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Gers had lost midfielder Tom Lawrence and striker Danilo to injury against Hearts in midweek and, also with one eye on the final Europa League group game against Real Betis on Thursday, he rang the changes.

Borna Barisic, John Souttar, Cifuentes, Rabbi Matondo and Dessers came back in while Connor Goldson, Ross McCausland and Ridvan Yilmaz dropped to the bench.

The visitors, with centre-back Ricki Lamie in for the injured Owen Beck, soon threatened.

Gers keeper Jack Butland had to produce a fantastic save from Lyall Cameron in the fourth minute after he had waltzed through the Gers defence with ease.

The home side did not heed the warning. Cameron floated the corner into the box and it eventually fell to unmarked Bakayoko who knocked in from five yards.

The mood inside Ibrox changed until Dessers equalised.

Dundee’s Jordan McGhee headed Tavernier’s long and aimless ball straight to Gers midfielder Todd Cantwell, who moved the ball on to the former Feyenoord striker. His first effort was blocked but he hammered his second attempt high past Carson.

The afternoon got worse for the Taysiders when referee Kevin Clancy was sent to check his monitor for a possible penalty when Sima’s shirt was pulled by Aaron Donnelly at a corner.

Clancy pointed to the spot and Tavernier sent Carson the wrong way to turn the game on its head, although the Light Blues defence still looked leaky.

However, Sima’s powerful header from a Tavernier corner gave Carson no chance and made it four goals in three games for the Senegalese attacker.

Dundee’s Joe Shaughnessy had the ball in the Rangers net minutes later but Bakayoko had barged into Butland to prevent him gathering and a free-kick was correctly given.

Then Cantwell netted for Rangers but Clancy had already blown for an infringement.

As Rangers pressed, Cantwell’s powerful drive was brilliantly saved by Carson before Tavernier clipped the top of the bar.

Referee Kevin Clancy views a replay before sending off Rangers’ Jose Cifuentes
Referee Kevin Clancy views a replay before sending off Rangers’ Jose Cifuentes Referee Kevin Clancy views a replay before sending off Rangers’ Jose Cifuentes (Steve Welsh/PA)

In added time, Clancy again went pitchside to check a foul by Cifuentes on Bakayoko and returned to dismiss the midfielder.

Cantwell was sacrificed for the more defensive Dujon Sterling, with Matondo making way for McCausland for the second half.

Cameron tested Butland with a long-range drive before Clement was booked for venting his spleen on the touchline.

Sima should have scored a second in the 64th minute after bursting through the Dundee defence but shot wide and then Dessers got himself clear only to be crowded out by backtracking defenders.

Dundee skipper Joe Shaughnessy cleared a Leon Balogun shot off the line and Sterling crashed a shot off the post in the final minute of normal time as the home side ran out comfortable winners.