GLASGOW: Ianis Hagi fired Rangers to a 1-0 victory over Hibernian on Saturday as the Scottish Premiership leaders extended their winning streak to 12 games.
Steven Gerrard’s side have not dropped points since they last faced Hibernian in September to maintain a 16-point lead over Celtic, who were 3-0 winners at Hamilton.
Bidding to stop Celtic winning 10 Scottish league titles in a row, Rangers are in pole position as the new year looms, with the two sides set to meet at Ibrox on Jan. 2.
The hosts were made to work hard by fourth-placed Hibs to keep their hot streak going.
Rangers quickly dominated possession and threatened when Connor Goldson met James Tavernier’s corner with a header that went straight at Hibs goalkeeper Dillon Barnes.
Hagi made the breakthrough on 33 minutes when he was quickest to react to Kemar Roofe’s cross.
Hibs had a penalty appeal turned down when Hagi’s high boot brushed Joe Newell’s face as the Rangers player tried to clear a bouncing ball in the box, and Allan McGregor produced an important late save from Melker Hallberg’s swerving shot to hold out for 16th clean sheet in 20 league games this season.
“If you don’t get that second goal you’re going to get a few nervy moments toward the end,” said Gerrard.
“But it’s a big win, clean sheet and 12 on the spin now, so I’m really happy.”
Celtic’s far leakier defense has been the difference between the sides so far this campaign, but Neil Lennon’s men still have three games in hand to haul themselves back into title contention should the win the Old Firm derby next weekend.
The Scottish champions made it three straight league wins on top of lifting the Scottish Cup last weekend to bounce back from a disastrous run of results that had fans protesting outside Celtic Park for Lennon to go earlier this month.
In horrendous weather conditions as wind and rain lashed over New Douglas Park, Celtic had to be patient against second-bottom Hamilton.
However, the floodgates opened after Odsonne Edouard opened the scoring from the penalty spot as the French under-21 international then teed up Leigh Griffiths for his third goal in as many games.
David Turnbull then tapped home the third after Edouard’s header came off the post.
“I thought they were outstanding,” said Lennon.
“The attitude first of all was brilliant. The body language, everything about the players was spot on and we’re looking far more like ourselves.”
Aberdeen moved above Hibs into third by coming from behind to beat St. Johnstone 2-1.
Livingston’s unbeaten run since David Martindale took charge extended to six games with a 2-1 win at Kilmarnock, while St. Mirren beat nine-man Ross County 2-0.
Nicky Clark’s late equalizer salvaged a 1-1 draw for Dundee United at home to Motherwell, who slipped down the table to ninth after appeals against forfeit wins over Kilmarnock and St. Mirren were lodged on Saturday.
Motherwell had been awarded 3-0 victories over both after games were postponed due to coronavirus infections.
Hamilton were also awarded a 3-0 win over St. Mirren, but the points from all three games have now been rescinded until the appeal process is completed.