Rangers 7 Dundee United 1
Kris Boyd smashed Henrik Larsson’s record as the Clydesdale Bank Premier League’s top goalscorer after netting an incredible five goals as Dundee United crashed to a 7-1 defeat at Ibrox.
Not content to simply level the Celtic legend’s tally of 158, he ended the match having taken his own tally to 160 goals in Scottish football’s top flight.
Damien Casalinuovo pulled a goal back for United and Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were also on the scoresheet but the night belonged to Boyd, with new Scotland boss Craig Levein given plenty of food for thought in the stands.
The Scottish champions now boast a seven point lead at the summit ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm derby, with the only sour point a red card for Kenny Miller which rules him out of the clash with the Hoops.
Walter Smith named an unchanged side following their 4-1 win over Hibernian on Sunday, while United – hoping to avenge a 3-0 defeat against Rangers at Tannadice earlier this month – made three changes from their goalless draw with Kilmarnock.
Darren Dods, Danny Cadamarteri and Morgaro Gomis were drafted into the side ahead of Andy Webster – ineligible under the terms of his loan deal – and Jon Daly and David Goodwillie, who were both named on the bench.
Nacho Novo had the ball in the back of the net in the opening minutes but the assistant’s offside flag was raised well before he unleashed the shot.
The Spaniard had another chance a few minutes later. Kirk Broadfoot supplied the cross from the right, which was touched on by Miller. Boyd, a few yards out, left the ball for Novo only for him to blast well over.
The breakthrough came when referee William Collum pointed to the penalty spot when Dods foolishly shoved Miller in the box. Boyd stepped up for the spot-kick and rifled low into the net to hand the Scottish champions the advantage with 20 minutes gone.
Steven Davis was denied by the woodwork when his angled drive smacked off the far post but he turned provider to set up Boyd for his second after 25 minutes.
Novo was fouled by Mickael Kovacevic 25 yards out and Davis rolled a short free-kick to the striker to lash a low shot past Nicky Weaver and into the back of the net.
Garry Kenneth was then called into action to hook Boyd’s volley off the line moments later but, with just 29 minutes gone, the prolific hitman claimed his hat-trick to level Larsson as the SPL’s top scorer with 158 goals.
Miller beat Kenneth before providing the cross for Boyd to stab home from close range to hand Rangers a comfortable lead heading into the break.
United emerged for the second half determined to show a positive reaction and that is exactly what they did when they pulled a goal back a minute after the restart.
Paul Dixon supplied a lovely cross for substitute Casalinuovo to fire through the legs of Allan McGregor from close-range.
The home side were then dealt another blow when Miller was shown a straight red card for violent conduct with 51 minutes gone following a clash with Dods - ruling him out of the Old Firm clash on Sunday.
Rangers swapped Novo for Whittaker and he had an immediate impact when he claimed a goal after 68 minutes. Kyle Lafferty supplied the cross and Whittaker shrugged off Dixon to fire past the helpless Weaver.
Boyd then broke Larsson’s record with 75 minutes gone. The striker and Dods both went for Whittaker’s corner with Boyd denied by both Weaver and Dods before finally stabbing home at the third attempt.
Not content, he claimed his fifth five minutes later when he rifled into the top corner from 12 yards before leaving the pitch to a hug from Walter Smith.
Bougherra then went on a mazy run from the halfway line, dodging a string of United players, before sending a low shot into the back of the net and seal an emphatic 7-1 win with five minutes to go.