Steven Gerrard praised his Rangers side for keeping their cool amid another night of shame at Easter Road. The Ibrox side swept Hibernian aside with a 3-0 masterclass to cut the gap on the league leaders, Celtic, back to two points. But their win was overshadowed once again as members of the Leith support let their club down.
The Rangers defender Borna Barisic was lucky to escape serious injury when a glass bottle was among a series of objects hurled as he lay on the ground seconds after being pole-axed by a shocking challenge which saw Ryan Porteous sent off.
The missile came from the same section of the East Stand from which a pitch invader leapt to confront the Rangers captain, James Tavernier, last March. That incident occurred a week after the Celtic winger Scott Sinclair was targeted with a Buckfast bottle, again from the area in the corner next to the away support.
Hibs’ chief executive, Leeann Dempster, said she would consider shutting the rogue section if the fans did not clean up their act in the wake of those two disgraceful episodes.
Gerrard said it is now up to Hibs to explain how they are going to tackle the problem. But he was happy to voice praise for his players as they refused to react, completing a win earned thanks to goals from Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and Jermain Defoe.
“It was bottles, lighters, all kind of objects,” said Gerrard. “It’s not my business. It’s down to Hibs to deal with that. We don’t want to see that in any stadium. We want the players to be safe and we want the fans to be safe.
“We’ve spoken to our players on numerous occasions and told them to keep their cool in these situations. I’m very pleased with their behaviour.”
However, Gerrard admitted that both his backroom team and the Hibs bench had overstepped the mark as they squared up when Porteous lunged into Barisic, earning a straight red which rules him out of Thursday’s Edinburgh derby.
Rangers’ coach, Tom Culshaw, and Hibs assistant, John Potter, followed the defender down the tunnel after they were also dismissed by the referee, Nick Walsh, leaving Gerrard, whose side were without the suspended 27-goal striker Alfredo Morelos, to admit: “I think both benches won’t be proud of seeing that back. That’s not what it’s all about. We need to control emotions better.
“It was a straight red card. We were disappointed with Hibs trying to defend that. But I’m very happy. We were excellent until the red card, very dominant. People will go away talking about the goals and the front three. Rightly so. But I’m really pleased with the back seven as well, how solid they were.
“There was a lot of pressure on players before a ball was kicked and they answered it. People were ready to write headlines and call us a one-man band that can’t play without Morelos. There was a lot of pressure on Jermain because of Alfredo. But he handled it.”
Hibernian’s manager, Jack Ross, condemned the fan who shamed the club, saying: “I can’t get my head around why anyone would make the decision to throw a glass bottle at another human being. I just don’t get it. There are people who argue that behaviours on the pitch or around the pitch affect that. That’s garbage. Someone who does that deserves the consequences that come with it.”
Hibs also released a statement saying: “We are naturally disappointed at the actions of a few, particularly as we appealed for supporters to behave responsibly on the eve of the game.
“We invested significantly in enhanced CCTV systems and we’ll review footage from all of the sections concerned to identify any individual involved in unacceptable conduct.”