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St Johnstone 2:1 Rangers
A James Brown wonder strike sparked St Johnstone to a shock win over Rangers to leave Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side seven points behind Celtic in the Scottish Premiership title race.
Nicky Clark got the second in a stunning victory that secured Saints’ first three points against the Ibrox side since December 2017.
Rangers dominated the game without scoring before Brown’s rocket on the stroke of half-time turned the tide, and a reply from James Tavernier wasn’t enough to salvage a point.
St Johnstone leap to fifth in the table, just three points off third-placed Aberdeen, with pressure growing further on Van Bronckhorst and his Rangers players after a dismal Champions League campaign.
The deputising keeper had to get down quickly to deny John Lundstram, before watching on as Fashion Sakala rose highest at a corner and smacked the crossbar with his header.
Then, a bolt from the blue – quite literally. Brown had never scored a goal before he picked up the ball 25 yards from goal. He couldn’t have hit it any sweeter as he laced it into the top corner at some pace.
From those ropes, they’d just thrown a haymaker that stunned Rangers. The second threatened to put them on the canvas.
More tenacious work from Stevie May saw a low cross whipped in to the front post, where Clark flicked beyond a furious Allan McGregor in off the bar.
Rangers tried to muster a response. Lundstram stirred them when he got on the end of a flowing move, but his side-footed effort clipped the outside of the post.
Then, the first hint of recovery. Tavernier drilled one straight at the centre of goal through a clutch of bodies, and Parish could only let it squirm through his grasp.
Another crack of the woodwork came when Lundstram drove one from distance that just did not dip enough. As they had done all game, Rangers poured forward. But as had become the theme for them in Perth, they did not create anything nearly dangerous enough.
Player of the Match – Stevie May
Faltering Rangers stunned by superb Saints – analysis
Saints manager Callum Davidson said that if Rangers scored early, he was in for a long afternoon. After Tavernier’s goal, hours must have passed until the full-time whistle was finally blown.
St Johnstone held on. Looking at almost every statistic, they were battered. Looking at the pitch, they were resilient, brave and clinical.
And when Rangers failed to adequately test Parish in the first half hour, more than a scintilla of doubt would have begun to creep into Van Bronckhorst’s mind.
Again, this was a match in which, for all the possession, all the passing, they could not make it count.
And now, undoubtedly, the manager faces real questions.
What they said
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson tells Sportsound: “It shows what we can do as a squad. It stands us in good stead, and we need to carry it on to Wednesday night.
“I’ve never seen James hit the target before, so I was surprised when it hit the back of the net! [Goalkeeper] Elliot Parish was outstanding too.
“It’s a whole new group, you can see things starting to gel together. it’s a lot of hard work. There’s no point beating Rangers if you don’t get a result on Wednesday night, so we can focus on that.”
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst tells Sportsound: “Disappointment, obviously. If you don’t take any points, you’re obviously disappointed. That’s my main feeling.
“We started the game really well. We started on the front foot and created so many chances in the first 30 minutes but weren’t clinical enough to score the first goal. Instead, we conceded and that made it harder.
St Johnstone head to Paisley to face St Mirren on Wednesday night, whilst Rangers host Hearts on the same evening (both 19:45 GMT).
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