The Rangers take the lead in the Scottish Premiership with Tavernier’s penalty goals defeating St Johnstone.

The Rangers take the lead in the Scottish Premiership with Tavernier’s penalty goals defeating St Johnstone.

Rangers secured a 3-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, with James Tavernier scoring two penalty goals in the final minutes of the game. This win propelled Rangers to the top of the Scottish Premiership standings.

On Saturday, Celtic had a 1-1 tie against Kilmarnock at home, allowing Philippe Clement’s team to potentially take a two-point lead at the top with a win in Perth. Since Clement took over for Michael Beale at Ibrox in October, Brendan Rodgers’ team has seen their seven-point lead shrink.

In the 37th minute, Mohamed Diomande brought excitement to an otherwise lackluster first half by scoring a goal from 25 yards out. This was the midfielder’s first goal for Rangers since joining on loan from Nordsjælland during the January transfer window.

The Rangers were able to win by scoring two penalties in the last 11 minutes, thanks to the VAR. Tavernier successfully converted them, increasing his season’s goal count to 19 and pushing his team ahead of their Old Firm competitors with 12 games left for each team.

The Rangers fans were filled with anticipation as they traveled for the early afternoon game. The coach, Clement, stuck to his rotation strategy by bringing back players such as Borna Barisic, Óscar Cortés, Scott Wright, Diomande, and Fábio Silva. Meanwhile, Craig Levein’s team, the 10th-ranked Saints, had Dan Phillips back from injury and also welcomed back Connor Smith and Ryan McGowan.

Mohammed Diomande celebrates after opening the scoring at McDiarmid Park.

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The Rangers were unable to challenge the St Johnstone goalkeeper, Dimitar Mitov, in a messy beginning until Diomande made a move to score the first goal. McGowan managed to steal the ball from Silva, but it ended up with Diomande who controlled it and shot it past the diving Mitov.

After serving a suspension, Dujon Sterling substituted Wright on the wing at halftime. Benjamin Kimpioka, a striker for Saints, replaced David Keltjens, who had received a booking in the first half. Right after the game resumed, Mitov made an impressive save from Silva’s shot near the goal. Sterling also attempted to connect with a cross from Todd Cantwell, but was unsuccessful.

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Cyriel Dessers and Ross McCausland substituted for Silva and Cortés, while Tom Lawrence took the place of Cantwell. This change was made by Clement in hopes of securing a second goal and creating a comfortable lead for his team. The opportunity came when Sterling was fouled by Andy Considine, and the referee, Matt MacDermid, used the VAR monitor on the sideline to confirm the penalty.

Tavernier did not give Mitov an opportunity to save the shot, and Dessers attempted to score a third goal by getting past the goalkeeper. However, St Johnstone’s captain, Liam Gordon, successfully protected the ball from going into the net.

Dessers later directed a Tavernier pass towards the crossbar, while Lawrence’s attempt hit Luke Robinson’s hand. After reviewing the footage once more, MacDermid awarded a penalty and the Rangers’ captain successfully scored his 120th goal for the team by sending the ball high into the opposite corner.

Following the match, Clement commended Tavernier for his performance and revealed that he was the first player he spoke with upon his arrival. He explained, “It’s natural to seek out a stalwart like Tavernier when joining a team in the midst of a difficult situation. I wanted to quickly figure out how to put out the fire.”

“He was very transparent and truthful about all aspects of the club, the team, and his own personal character,” the Belgian added. “Now, he has a few trusted advisors who also play influential roles. Having that support is crucial. It’s evident that they have all been progressing in the past few months, without any exceptions.”

Levein joked that “VAR is currently winning 8-0 against us.” He expressed frustration with the late penalty decision against Robinson, stating, “I’m not sure how you’re supposed to keep your arm in when you’re spinning. The referee didn’t see it, it was the people in the VAR booth who made the call.”

The outcome of the game was not solely determined by VAR, but it did provide an advantage for Rangers. I am unsure of the most suitable handball rule, but it would be preferable to have one that is universally applied.