Rangers win delivers Hibs third-place blow
Last updated on .From the section Scottish Premiership
James Tavernier marked his 400th Rangers appearance with his 101st goal as Hibernian suffered a near killer blow to their hopes of finishing third in the Scottish Premiership.
Now captain, the 31-year-old Englishman's 18th goal of the season came from a whipped delivery and Ianis Hagi made it two midway through the second half.
The Romanian midfielder, who spent more than a year on the sidelines through injury, appeared visibly emotional as he fired his first goal since 18 January 2022 before Todd Cantwell slotted the third.
Paul Hanlon's late headed reply came too late as Hibs are left six points behind third-top Aberdeen and four off Heart of Midlothian with only two games remaining.
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Their four-game unbeaten run now over, Lee Johnson's side must beat champions Celtic on Wednesday - then win the final-day derby against Hearts - and hope their two rivals slip up to claim third spot.
For runners-up Rangers, it built on last week's impressive Old Firm derby victory as Michael Beale's side comfortably avoided a rare third consecutive away defeat.
Any thoughts that the visitors would be less motivated than their European-chasing hosts were quickly dispelled as John Souttar got his head to two corners in quick succession as the former Hearts centre-half looked to add to his Old Firm derby goal.
The first came off the crossbar before Hibs scrambled it clear and the second appeared to be slapped off the line by Marshall.
Hibs settled as they adapted to a Rangers midfield formation tweaked because of injuries and goalkeeper Robby McCrorie's increasing nervousness appeared to infect a back line shorn of Connor Goldson.
Kevin Nisbet flashed a header wide as strike partner Elie Youan began to give Tavernier a torrid time on Rangers' right.
However, just when it looked to be turning sour for the visiting skipper, he caught Marshall sleeping at his front post with a wicked in-swinging delivery from wide on Hibs' right to add to a tally that, amazingly for a defender, makes him the fifth top marksman since the Premiership began.
Nisbet's superb low cross with the outside of his boot laid it on the plate for Josh Campbell, but the midfielder poked it just wide as he slid in unmarked at the back post.
Hibs went close immediately after the break as McCrorie flapped as he challenged for a ball looped into his six-yard box and Nisbet's header somehow slipped wide of the gaping goal.
The increasing threat of a home comeback was doused when Hagi fired home from 16 yards after his first effort was blocked and Cantwell pounced when Tavernier's deflected effort came off Marshall's body.
Nisbet had also been thwarted by the near post and Hibs got the reward their efforts maybe deserved when centre-half Hanlon got on the end of a late corner.
Narrowing the gap with Celtic to eight points has come too late to prevent their Glasgow rivals retaining the title and Beale will realise that the recent stumbles from their city rivals have come when the battle was already won.
It simply continued a trend considering Rangers now are unbeaten in 10 visits to Easter Road - and in 19 league meetings with Hibs - and won 4-1 there on their last visit in March.
However, the English manager will take heart from the way they still managed to overcome a highly motivated side despite the latest clutch of injuries that meant an goalkeeper filling a place on the bench and will hope to build on that strength in depth during the summer transfer window.
Two consecutive home wins had revived Hibs' hopes of a third-place finish, but the failure to rattle a Rangers side reeling from injuries will be a sore one for Johnson and his side.
The home manager will, nevertheless, be pleased with the number of chances created and will know that, if they can be more clinical up front and tighten up at the back, they can still secure European football next season.
What they said
Hibs manager Lee Johnson: "Clearly, they are technically a better side than us, which you would expect, but when we countered, I thought we looked dangerous. We need more end product and we know that, so the boys have to be technically better and we need to recruit technically better.
"No way is it a foul for Rangers' first goal. He is a good player Cantwell, but he bought it. There's no way it is a foul and that is the damage that can be caused by bad refereeing decisions."
Rangers manager Michael Beale: "People won't know, but the preparation was horrific. However, the mentality of the starting team was fantastic.
"That was a big, important game for Hibs, but we looked comfortable throughout. We were the dominant team, we might have scored more."
Hibs host Celtic on Wednesday while Rangers host Hearts (both 19:45 BST).