Alfredo Morelos struck twice as Rangers continued their impressive start to life under Michael Beale with a dominant 3-0 win at in-form Hearts.
The Jambos were unbeaten in 10 matches and had high hopes of causing an upset, but they were torn apart by the ruthless visitors, who also had three other goals ruled out for offside and a penalty award overturned following VAR reviews.
Rangers – for whom Malik Tillman scored the second goal – have now won 10 of their 11 matches since Beale took charge and are unbeaten in their last 13, although they remain nine points adrift of city rivals Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership.
Hearts made five changes to the side that drew 0-0 against Livingston on Sunday as James Hill, Robert Snodgrass, Barrie McKay, Josh Ginnelly and Garang Kuol replaced Nathaniel Atkinson, Orestis Kiomourtzoglou, Cammy Devlin, Stephen Humphrys and Yutaro Oda.
Beale made two alterations to the Rangers team that defeated St Johnstone at the weekend as Ryan Jack and Todd Cantwell dropped out to be replaced by John Lundstram and Fashion Sakala.
The visitors started strongly and had the ball in the net after six minutes when Morelos knocked in Sakala’s cross at the back post but it was ruled out for offside.
The Colombian striker was not to be denied, however, and just two minutes later he broke the deadlock when he nodded in from a Ryan Kent cross after the winger was released down the left by a quickly-taken free-kick.
Hearts were struggling to get a foothold in the game and Morelos fired a low angled shot across the face of goal in the 12th minute.
The hosts’ first chance came via a counter-attack in the 22nd minute when McKay was put through on goal following good work by Lawrence Shankland and Kuol but goalkeeper Allan McGregor spread himself to make an important save.
At the other end Stephen Kingsley – after giving the ball away in the Rangers half – sprinted back to block a goalbound effort from Sakala on the line.
Sakala did find the net in the 28th minute after being slipped through on goal by Kent following a lovely flowing attack, but it was ruled out for offside after a VAR check.
Moments after Morelos had forced a brilliant save from Zander Clark, Rangers doubled their lead in the 35th minute when Tillman hooked the ball home from close range after Connor Goldson had headed Borna Barisic’s cross from the left back into the danger area.
Rangers finished a dominant first half on the front foot, with Kent seeing a close-range effort deflected on to the post before Lundstram forced another superb save from Clark with a ferocious 20-yard strike.
Hearts – having been outplayed – made two substitutions for the start of the second half as recent signings Kuol and Hill were replaced by Alan Forrest and Kiomourtzoglou.
Rangers were awarded a penalty three minutes after the restart when Kent fell as he tried to go past Alex Cochrane, but after a VAR review the decision was overturned and the winger was booked for diving.
The visitors were frustrated once more by VAR in the 56th minute when Sakala had another goal ruled out after running on to a Glen Kamara pass to slot beyond Clark.
The third goal eventually arrived in the 67th minute when Morelos tapped in at the back post from a Sakala cross and it was allowed to stand after another VAR check.
Beale: ‘I want to keep Tillman’
Rangers manager Michael Beale speaking to Sky Sports about Malik Tillman:
“I think it’s clear what I want. The boy’s playing very well. He’s played in every game since I came to the club.
“He’s a very strong player for a 20-year-old in this league and I’ve sort of given him a lot of discipline putting him in the midfield and breaking out, but he gives us an extra goalscorer from there and I think he’s a very interesting young player, that’s got a really high ceiling, and we definitely want him here at Rangers longer term.
“We’re all on the same page with his deal, so it just needs to be activated at a certain time and the right things have got to be spoken about by the people above me and Bayern Munich.
“He’s their player at this moment in time but I think the way he’s adapted to the ideas I’ve given him, even before I came in, he’d scored some really important goals for the club in Europe, in the summer, to qualify for the Champions League and since I’ve been here he’s been fantastic. There are some errors in his game he needs to work on but what an exciting player for me and my staff to come in and work with every day.”
Hearts are at home to Dundee United in their next Scottish Premiership match on February 4, while Rangers welcome Ross County to Ibrox on the same day.
Both games kick off at 3pm.