Ross County 0-4 Rangers: Jack double gives visitors easy win
Braces from Ryan Jack and Alfredo Morelos helped Rangers ease to victory against Ross County and keep pace with Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Rangers stay second, level on points with Celtic but behind their rivals having scored one goal fewer.
Jack curled in two stunning, identical efforts before the break, after Morelos had tapped in the opener.
The Colombian then slammed in his 17th of the season on 71 minutes.
Sheyi Ojo and Joe Arbio both hit the woodwork for the rampant visitors, who know all too well the importance goal difference could have on the destination of the Premiership title.
Meanwhile, Ross County are now five matches without a win and drop to seventh, having conceded 14 goals during that run, though 10 of them were scored by the Old Firm.
Peerless Jack deserves Scotland shot
It is hard to overstate the importance of Jack to this Rangers team. After he signed a new contract last week to stay at Ibrox until 2023, manager Steven Gerrard heaped praise on the midfielder, calling him "a real leader and winner on the pitch," adding "we believe that there is a lot more to come from him before he reaches his potential."
If that improvement includes adding goals to his game - his second in Dingwall being just his 18th in 335 career appearances - his manager, himself a fairly prolific midfielder in his day, will be thrilled.
But it is Jack's ability to control games, get Rangers moving, and read the play that are outstanding, and were highlighted all the more in his absence during Rangers' stunted draw at Tynecastle recently, as well as their toils in victory against Motherwell on Sunday.
His two finishes were almost identical in the way he received the ball and duped onrushing defenders to shift it on to his right foot before curling the ball into Ross Laidlaw's bottom-left corner each time. It showed a player brimming with confidence, playing at the peak of his powers. Jack wasn't far away from a hat-trick either as another long-range effort whistled into the side netting after the break.
Before the former Aberdeen captain got in on the act, Morelos had already grabbed his 16th goal of the season from close range after Aribo and Ojo had combined superbly to make his task simple. But the Colombian caused his usual havoc with his clever movement into the channel between County's centre-backs and wing-backs.
And that's exactly how he scored his second, surging into the box and slamming home before being replaced by Jermain Defoe as Rangers pressed for more goals.
With bigger tests in mind, no doubt, Jack was also withdrawn just after the hour to a standing ovation from the away end. At this rate it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Scotland manager Steve Clarke to leave him out of the starting XI for the final two Euro 2020 qualifiers next month. He deserves a chance.
As for Ross County, they might be able to chalk this one up as another battering at the hands of an Old Firm side, as many teams have suffered already this term. But the ease at which they concede goals - only St Johnstone have shipped more - is alarming.
They should have known better to close Jack down given he had already punished them, and Liam Fontaine's clearance for the midfielder's first was sloppy. In attack they rarely threatened, Ross Draper's deflected effort off a post when the game was done was the closest they came.
The Highland side have made a bright start to their Premiership return, but they must improve quickly or risk spoiling that good work.
Man of the Match - Ryan Jack
BBC Scotland's Eilidh Davies at the Global Energy Stadium
Jack was almost indisputably man of the match, but he was ably supported by his two central midfield partners. Glen Kamara was outstanding in his use of the ball on his return from illness, and Aribo put in arguably his best attacking display of the season.
The former Charlton man struck a post but was also pivotal in setting up Morelos' opener, and got the direct assist for the striker's second. Ojo also impressed after recent patchy performances with a beautiful cross for the opener and might have had one himself had he not scuffed an early chance off the woodwork. Overall, there was a brilliant balance to Rangers midfield.
'We capitulated' - reaction
Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell: "The Achilles heel we have at the minute seems to be, certainly against Celtic and Rangers, is when we concede and get a bit of adversity then we capitulate.
"That's an issue me and [co-manager] Steven [Ferguson] have to deal with and rectify it. Rangers in all honestly could have scored more goals tonight, they were excellent."
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard on BT Sport: "I thought we got a bit sloppy in the last 20 minutes with people wanting to score, people slowing it down, we wanted the subs to bring more.
"It's interesting because as soon as one gets sloppy it's like a disease that goes through the whole team, it doesn't look right. But I thought for 70 minutes we were really good."
- 12GrivostiSubstituted forWatsonat 41'minutes
- 23ChalmersSubstituted forMckayat 60'minutes
- 19GrahamSubstituted forGardyneat 77'minutes
- 27StewartBooked at 59mins
- 31BarisicSubstituted forHallidayat 55'minutes
- 8JackSubstituted forMurphyat 63'minutes
- 20MorelosSubstituted forDefoeat 72'minutes
- Bobby Madden
- Shots on Target