SPL - Rangers toil past 10-man United
Rangers had to toil hard for a 1-0 SPL win against ten-man Dundee United at Tannadice, with Kyle Lafferty heading the only goal.
The Northern Irishman scored in the 61st minute, but United had to play for an hour with a numerical disadvantage after Johnny Russell's needless sending-off.
The midfielder was given his marching orders for aiming a headbutt at Kirk Broadfoot, and thereafter it always looked a matter of time until Ally McCoist's side took advantage.
The Tangerines started brightly, and nearly went in front through Willo Flood on seven minutes, when his 25-yard shot took a big deflection, wrong-footed Allan McGregor and whistled inches wide of the right-hand post.
Rangers responded through Lafferty, who controlled a sharp pass to feet from Juanma Ortiz, but fired a weak shot that Dusan Pernis collected.
Star striker Nikica Jelavic was missing with an injury sustained on international duty with Croatia, and his absence was keenly felt with a lack of goal threat inside the box.
United's Daniel Swanson proved a menace to Rangers throughout, given licence to roam across the pitch in an attacking midfield role - he nearly caught McGregor out with a swerving shot on 20 minutes.
Swanson was at the heart of the game's first major controversy, when he drove into the box and went down under a Dorin Goian challenge - referee Calum Murray booked the attacker for diving.
Replays show Goian got a slight touch on the ball, but the decision to book Swanson looked extremely harsh in light of the contact between the players.
United continued to play brightly, and Garry Kenneth might have done better with two headers from corners that went narrowly over.
Everything changed on the half-hour, when Russell confronted Broadfoot and led with his head. The former creditably stayed on his feet, but however slight the contact, Murray had no option but to show a red card.
Thereafter, Rangers predictably dominated. Steven Naismith chested down a lofted ball to the edge of the box but dragged his shot wide, and Lafferty forced a save from Pernis with a shot from a tight angle.
The striker then missed two great opportunities, as he controlled eight yards out but saw his shot hit Pernis's leg, before heading wide from around the penalty spot.
But he finally prevailed just after the hour mark, when Gregg Wylde crossed left-footed from the right, and this time Lafferty's header found the right corner.
Though Rangers continued to dominate, they never put the game away. Steven Davis came closest with a shot that hit both posts before bouncing to safety, before Goian fired a low shot wide.
Naismith then had a shot cleared off the line by Kenneth after he squeezed his shot past Pernis.
The closest United came to an equaliser was through John Rankin, who fired a low effort through a forest of legs and just wide of the far post on 81 minutes - the slightest deflection might have earned an equaliser.