Candeias goal restores Rangers to top spot



Posted Monday, December 17, 2018 by PA

Candeias goal restores Rangers to top spot

Rangers returned to the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table as Daniel Candeias’ early strike was enough to secure a 1-0 win over Hamilton at Ibrox.

Steven Gerrard’s side moved to the front of the pack with victory over Hearts a fortnight ago but then relinquished the lead with stumbles against Aberdeen and Dundee.

However, Celtic’s defeat to Hibernian gave Rangers the chance to reclaim top spot and they did not falter as Candeias struck the winner within three minutes.

They now lead Kilmarnock on goal difference while the Hoops sit a point back in third with a game in hand.

Accies remain 10th, four points above the drop zone, but victory was the perfect response for Gerrard’s men to Thursday’s Europa League exit at the hands of Rapid Vienna.

Gerrard will be concerned by his side’s continuing lack of cutting edge having now managed just one goal from open play in the last six games.

Events in Leith made it imperative the Light Blues made no repeat of the slow starts that cost them five points against the Dons and at Dens Park last week.

But Gerrard got the early breakthrough he was looking for.

It took just two and a half minutes for Candeias to pounce but remarkably they should have been in front even before that.

Kyle Lafferty – in for suspended top-scorer Alfredo Morelos – forced a corner when he caught Accies goalkeeper Gary Woods dallying on the ball outside his box.

But the Northern Irishman somehow failed to bury his header from a yard out as James Tavernier swung over a perfect delivery, instead nodding against the back post.

Gerrard had no time to lament that miss as his side did grab the lead within a blink of the eye. Borna Barisic released Eros Grezda down the left. Lafferty’s shot was blocked by Matt Kilgallon as the striker got onto the Albanian’s cut-back, but there was no stopping Candeias’ follow-up strike.

That was just the start Rangers were looking for as they looked to take advantage of Celtic’s Easter Road slip-up.

But despite dominating the rest of the half they could not build on their lead before the break.

Candeias saw another effort blocked amid a goalmouth scramble, while Woods had to pull off a smart near-post stop after Aaron McGowan fired a clearance straight at Grezda.

The keeper was impressive again as he pushed away Gareth McAuley’s header just before the half-time whistle.

Scott McMann registered Accies’ first attempt early into the second half as he raced past Tavernier but Allan McGregor was never troubled.

Woods rushed a clearance at the other end but redeemed himself by blocking Grezda as Rangers sprang forward looking to kill off the visitors.

His fingertip save high to his right on 65 minutes to keep out a Lafferty save was even better.

But the longer Rangers led by one, more the Ibrox faithful grew nervous. Connor Goldson had to produce a last-ditch tackle to keep out visiting substitute Fredrik Brustad while McGregor barked at his team-mates to sharpen up.

There were some jittery moments as Accies sensed an opportunity to nick a draw late on but this time Rangers stood firm.

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