Rangers enjoyed their most comfortable win yet under Michael Beale with a 3-0 victory over Motherwell to set up nicely an Old Firm showdown as Celtic also made short work of Hibernian in winning 4-0 at Easter Road.
After three Premiership wins out of three for the new Gers manager, all by a one-goal margin, there was an element of control for Beale’s side when striker Alfredo Morelos’s scored in the 13th minute with a header before defender Connor Goldson’s counter after 38 minutes.
Midfielder Malik Tillman added a third in the 63rd minute but despite the welcome three points, it is evidently still a work in progress in Govan. Beale faces his biggest Light Blue test to date on January 2 when leaders Celtic visit Ibrox and progress will be measured under much more difficult conditions.
The Gers squad is becoming healthier by the game – albeit worryingly for Gers fans Morelos limped off in the second half – and although strikers Kemar Roofe and Antonio Colak were both available again, they were not in the squad.
Goalkeeper Allan McGregor and left-back Borna Barisic were reinstated along with Ryan Jack, Morelos and 19-year-old midfielder Alex Lowry, the latter making his first start since May.
There was concern when Morelos came off after pulling up, to be replaced by Rabbi Matondo, who was denied by Kelly in the 84th minute and in added time, although he was offside for the latter opportunity. The last fixture of the year proved positive for Rangers but the first of 2023 promises a much tougher challenge.
Aaron Mooy’s first two goals for Celtic helped the leaders to victory at Easter Road. Hibs made a positive start but the Australia midfielder fired the visitors into the lead from 12 yards in the 28th minute.
Daizen Maeda missed a sitter before scoring a glorious effort in the 36th minute and Hibs missed two good chances before Mooy converted a penalty just before the hour. Kyogo Furuhashi soon added a fourth but there was concern for the visiting fans when left-back Greg Taylor walked off with an injury immediately afterwards – and five days before the champions face Rangers. They will travel to Ibrox nine points clear.
Stand-in captain Lawrence Shankland scored his 16th goal of the season as Hearts secured their first away league win over St Johnstone in 12 years to move three points clear in third place.
The striker wore the armband in the absence of injured goalkeeper Craig Gordon and opened the scoring with a penalty before further strikes from Alan Forrest and substitute Barrie McKay secured a 3-2 victory in Perth.
Curtis Main scored a second-half equaliser to rescue a point as St Mirren recorded 1-1 draw at Livingston in a game that saw both teams finish with 10 men. The home team lost Scott Pittman to a straight red card for a challenge on Keanu Baccus in the 24th minute. Just seconds after Saints captain Mark O’Hara was sent off for a second booking Cristian Montano fired Livingston in front in the 56th minute.
Dundee United secured a vital 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Ross County to lift themselves off the bottom. The Tangerines took all three points thanks to a Connor Randall own goal, a Charlie Mulgrew header and a Craig Sibbald strike.
Kilmarnock survived a late scare to hand out Aberdeen’s fourth consecutive defeat. Scott Robinson and Joe Wright put Killy in control before Matty Kennedy’s injury-time free-kick set up a nervous finish.