Hibs on a hiding

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ON THE first day of the rest of their season, Rangers came up with this curious thrashing of Hibernian yesterday. After their European elimination, they might have been expected to baulk at the task ahead, the grind of getting back into next year's competition. Sure enough, they were both ragged and reckless, and yet it served only to make their opponents careless.

Hibs conceded four goals and their unbeaten home record, and they displayed a lack of professionalism in stark contrast to the teams that beat Rangers in Europe.

When Rangers' Alan McLaren aimlessly hacked an early clearance forward, there was no cruel continental waiting to expose him. Instead the ball fell to Steven Tweed, whose return was similarly inane. As Charlie Miller made it into the Hibs box, Tweed back-tracked. Although he belatedly blocked the attacker, the ball skewed to McCoist and he rolled the ball past Jim Leighton.

Parity, though, came in a minute. Michael O'Neill suckered Alex Cleland into a diving challenge and then escaped down the left wing. Darren Jackson met the centre at full pelt, and the ball squirted past Andy Goram off his thigh.

Rangers' midfield was constantly exposed, though. First Tweed cleared for Darren Jackson to blaze over, then Chris Jackson ran from deep to stretch the keeper. As Hibs poured forward they became porous themselves. Paul Gascoigne swung a free-kick from the right, Richard Gough and Oleg Salenko charged unopposed to the back post and a panicking Darren Dods headed into his own goal.

Still dazed despite the half-time break, Hibs watched Charlie Miller control and drive low past Leighton from 18 yards, and the pattern was then repeated. Hibs rushed forward for an indirect free-kick four yards out, which they wasted, and Rangers scored again. Gordon Durie, on for just 60 seconds, struck a high shot past Leighton from outside the box.

Rangers strutted out the remaining minutes to the chorus "We want five". But, having achieved supremacy without apparent strategy, they offered few answers to how the gap can be bridged between Europe and the Premier Division.