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Champions Rangers too strong for battling Ross County in showdown in Dingwall

Ross County's Harry Clarke (20) celebrates after scoring.
Ross County's Harry Clarke (20) celebrates after scoring.

Scottish champions Rangers were made to sweat for their 4-2 Premiership victory at battling Ross County.

Joe Aribo’s curling effort and Connor Goldson’s header put the champions two up inside 20 minutes.

County stemmed the flow before on-loan Arsenal defender Harry Clarke scored just before the break to offer food for thought.

Alfredo Morelos added a third early in the second half, but a Jordan White penalty set up a tense finale before Scott Arfield pounced to seal the points for the Ibrox side.

Despite the defeat, there were positive for home boss Malky Mackay to pluck from the performance.

Fans were back in good numbers with as close to the 6,600 capacity allowed in post-restrictions.

County have never beaten Rangers and in fact most recent encounters make for grim reading.

Rangers’ Connor Goldson celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 Rangers.

Nine straight defeats before kick-off here and a failure to score in the last six meetings.

However, these are changing times for the Staggies and recently-installed manager Mackay, who brings a wealth of front-line experience with him.

With no Premier Sports Cup tie last week, the Dingwall team were looking for a reaction to their 3-0 defeat at Hibs when they wilted in a frantic 11-minute first half spell before showing improvement.

Rangers sought reaction in league

Steven Gerrard’s league winners were keen to return to victorious ways in the Premiership, especially with Celtic leading the way at the top early on.

After a 3-0 opening day victory over Livingston, Rangers were shocked 1-0 by Dundee United. Last season, they were unbeaten on the way to their first title in a decade.

Ross County’s Harry Clarke (not in pictured) beats Allan McGregor to make it 2-1.

They were in the Highlands, however, on the back of a 5-0 League Cup rout over Dunfermline and a 1-0 Europa League play-off first leg win over Armenian champions Alashkert.

Starting debuts for Staggies

Mackay made three changes from that Easter Road reversal a fortnight before.

There was starting debuts for on-loan Arsenal defender Harry Clarke, Austrian midfielder David Cancola and Ben Paton, brother of Harry.

Paton took up a right-back spot, with Clarke and Iacovitti in the centre and Connor Randall at right-back.

Gerrard, meanwhile, made two changes from their Thursday night Euro tie.

In came Leon Balogun and Glen Kamara for Filip Helander and John Lundstram, who was sent off against Alashkert.

Rangers’ Calvin Bassey and Connor Randall in action.

Rangers were on the front foot from the off and got their noses in front on 15 minutes when Aribo was picked out by Morelos from a corner and he swerved a superb ball beyond Ross Laidlaw into the net.

Four minutes later, the task became all the tougher for the Staggies when Goldson rose above Iacovitti to plant a header into the net from a James Tavernier corner.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard walks out ahead of kick-off at Dingwall.

Laidlaw prevented further damage when he beat clear a shot from Hagi before saving another Goldson net-bound header as Rangers cranked up the pressure.

Clarke netted first County goal

From nowhere though, County found their way back into with a goal five minutes before the break.

Ben Paton whipped in cross after Callachan’s delivery was cut out and Clarke was ideally placed to crash a shot past Allan McGregor into the net after Iacovitti was denied.

This was County’s first league goal of the season and suddenly they had something to try and build upon when they could have been buried.

Morelos swiped home killer third

The Dingwall side started well in the early points of the second, but barely a minute after going close, Morelos cashed in on a weak clearance from Jordan Tillson to guide the ball past Laidlaw into the net after Glen Kamara teed him up.

Alfredo Morelos celebrates after putting Rangers 3-1 ahead at Ross County.

Malky Mackay’s team pulled it back to 3-2 from the penalty spot with 13 minutes to go after Spittal’s drive hit Aribo on the hand.

Up stepped White and he smashed the ball past McGregor to set up a grandstand finish.

Jordan White’s penalty beats Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

However, substitute Arfield mopped up a blocked Morelos shot to tuck away the final goal of the day.

County’s challenging start to the season moves on to Aberdeen next Sunday before they head to Celtic Park six days later.

Rangers’ relentless run of big matches continue on Thursday when they go to Armenia for face Alashkert before host revitalised Celtic in the league on Sunday.

ROSS COUNTY (4-5-1): Laidlaw 6, Randall 5, Cancola 6 (Hungbo 70), Spittal 6, Callachan 6, Iacovitti 5, Charles-Cook 5 (Samuel 90), Clarke 6, Tillson 5, Paton 6, White 6. Subs not used: Maynard-Brewer (GK), Shaw, Robertson, Watson, Donaldson.

RANGERS (4-3-3): McGregor 6, Tavernier 6, Goldson 7, Balogun 6, Bassey 6, Kamara 7 (Lundstram 74), Davis 6, Aribo 7 (Roofe 83), Kent 6, Hagi 6 (Arfield 78), Morelos 6. Subs not used: McCrorie, Helander, Itten, Patterson.

Referee: David Munro.

Man of the match: Joe Aribo.

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