Dado Prso squeezed out a success for Rangers yesterday at Easter Road to keep Alex McLeish's side four points adrift of Celtic ahead of Saturday's pivotal Old Firm encounter at Ibrox.
The towering Croatian kept his composure to dispatch a 65th-minute penalty that settled a frenetic encounter which saw both sides finish with just 10 men. Rangers had to labour for over an hour without Nacho Novo, who was sent off for an off-the-ball kick at Craig Rocastle. Gary Caldwell was given an instant red for his mistimed tackle on Hamed Namouchi that allowed Prso to score.
The former Monaco striker was given another chance from the spot to double his haul in the last minute, but missed, and insisted later that he is in no mood to go through the experience again, especially in a Glasgow derby.
"Normally Nacho [Novo] takes the penalties but next time someone else can take the ball," said Prso. "This was an important win for us to keep the pressure on Celtic - and we must win that if we want the title."
Rangers, of course, will now be without the suspended Novo against their rivals. However, they could easily have gone into the encounter minus a couple of points because Hibernian pushed them so hard that even McLeish acknowledged it had been tight.
Had Garry O'Connor scored in the 20th minute after controlling Derek Riordan's cross, and then lobbing Stefan Klos, Rangers would have been trailing. However the striker failed to follow the ball and when it hit the post, Michael Ball was on hand to clear. Klos then made a great save to deny Guillaume Beuzelin's header before Novo's moment of madness left his team with an uphill task.
However, Rangers brought on Alex Rae for the second half and his influence was crucial. The visitors made the breakthrough when Namouchi was released by Fernando Ricksen and felled by Caldwell, allowing Prso to steer in his kick.
Rangers had to survive hectic Hibernian pressure for an equaliser, but a last-minute counter-attack saw Ricksen brought down by Ian Murray, only for Prso to hit the post with this penalty. Murray was then denied an equaliser in injury-time by the post.
Goals: Prso pen (65) 0-1.
Hibernian (4-4-1-1): S Brown; Whittaker, Murdock (McCluskey, 70), Caldwell, Glass; Shiels, Beuzelin, Rocastle (Smith, 65), Murray; Riordan; O'Connor (Morrow, 65). Substitutes not used: A Brown (gk), Fletcher, Murphy, Orman.
Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Khizanishvili (Hutton, 83), Andrews, Boumsong, Ball; Ricksen, Malcolm, Namouchi, Lovenkrands (Rae, 46); Novo, Prso. Substitutes not used: G Smith (gk), Arveladze, Vanoli, Hughes, Mackenzie.
Referee: W Young.
Booked: Hibernian: Shiels, S Brown, Smith. Rangers: Khizanishvili.
Sent off: Hibernian: Caldwell. Rangers: Novo.
Man of the match: Beuzelin.
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