Ianis Hagi was Steven Gerrard’s unsung hero as Glasgow Rangers ran riot over St. Johnstone at McDiarmid Park to maintain their 16-point lead over Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership on Wednesday night.
Gerrard’s side largely dominated proceedings from start to finish to fuel their title ambitions, with goals from Hagi, Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe proving to be more than enough to beat the Saints before Christmas.
Roofe struck first after he capitalised on a mistake from Saints goalkeeper Zander Clark before Glen Kamara doubled their advantage before the break.
However, Hagi saved the best till last after he blasted a shot straight at Zander Clark after Roofe’s initial shot had been blocked for the ball to bounce between the keeper’s legs and over the line.
Hagi, who reportedly earns £23,000-a-week, has often been criticised for much of the season so far but he was brimming with confidence on the right wing, having started in the midfield as an advanced playmaker in the 4-0 win over Falkirk in the Betfred Scottish League Cup.
You could single out several players for their near-perfect performances, namely Borna Barisic, Roofe and James Tavernier, but the young Romania international was arguably a class above the rest of his teammates as Rangers romped to a 3-0 victory over Callum Davidson’s side, as he took two shots on target – more than any other player from either side – while completing 17 out of his 21 passes (81%), as per SofaScore.
There’s no doubt Gerrard will have been delighted with the right winger’s work rate, as he won seven of his 13 ground duels (53%), successfully completed his only dribble attempt of the game, and was fouled six times, which was also a game-high statistic.
The Ibrox boss heaped praise on his young charge in the post-match press conference after he handed him his first start after he left a positive impression following his brief cameo against Motherwell.
Gerrard said: “It took us probably a quarter of an hour to unleash a good shot.
“To be fair to Ianis, he comes into the team and one thing he will do for us is take shots on, he doesn’t mind taking a risk in his passing or shooting – I like that, and we got our rewards for it.
“He was excellent against Motherwell, he came on and helped us change the game.
“Again, it was a strong performance from him. I thought he tired a little bit at the end, I’ll have to monitor that in the coming days.
“He got a little bit leggy in the final minutes, but it’s understandable as it was a tough night and he put a shift in so fair play to him.”
While Roofe will rightly receive much of the acclaim having opened the scoring after he bagged a brace at the weekend, Hagi was Gerrard’s real hero.