Ferguson's return inspires Rangers

Rangers 3 - Hibernian 0
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The Independent Football

Barry Ferguson's return to Ibrox yesterday coincided with Rangers' best performance of the season as they sent out a message of intent ahead of next Sunday's key Old Firm encounter.

Barry Ferguson's return to Ibrox yesterday coincided with Rangers' best performance of the season as they sent out a message of intent ahead of next Sunday's key Old Firm encounter.

Dado Prso's double on either side of half-time supplied the cutting edge but it was Ferguson, the prodigal son after his £4.5 million switch from Blackburn Rovers, who was at the hub of everything.

Celtic, who play today at Inverness, have the chance to reclaim the leadership of the Scottish Premier League ahead of that intriguing meeting with their rivals.

For Hibernian it was a painful lesson. The third-placed side were simply taken to the cleaners, especially in a remarkable first half when all Rangers had to show for their creativity was Prso's goal 11 minutes before the interval.

That it was not more was down to a combination of dreadful finishing from Rangers and impeccable goalkeeping from Simon Brown. The Hibernian keeper gave a glimpse of what was to come when he denied Prso after just 12 minutes in a one-against-one situation. Brown continued in that vein when he and Gary Caldwell snuffed out Nacho Novo, who was poised to finish off Thomas Buffel's cross at the near post.

A sublime Rangers move ought to have broken the deadlock just before the half-hour when some neat one-touch passing tore Hibernian open, but Brown made a remarkable double save, the second part of which repelled a venomous Buffel shot.

The breakthrough finally came in the 34th minute and, unusually, it was courtesy of soft Hibernian defending. The visitors left Prso unmarked and he met Michael Ball's corner to thump a header past Brown from six yards.

Brown, though, gave Hibernian hope four minutes before half-time after Stephen Glass was harshly adjudged to have brought down Novo in the box. Brown guessed Novo's intentions and threw himself to his left to beat out the striker's penalty.

However, Prso made their task virtually impossible when he doubled Rangers' lead in the 49th minute. Hibernian were again the authors of their own downfall, with David Murphy robbed in left-back territory by Buffel. He found Novo, whose lay-off was thrashed in by Prso's left boot from the edge of the box.

Hibernian might have cut that deficit seven minutes later when Garry O'Connor conjured up a volley that Ronald Waterreus superbly touched over the bar. It was a pivotal moment, because Rangers swiftly scored a third.

A ruthless counterattack saw them switch from defending in their own box, with Prso threading a pass into the run of Buffel, who cut inside Steven Whittaker and steered his shot beyond Brown.

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