Colak scores two as Rangers ride controversy to thrash Ross County

Antonio Colak continued his scoring form with two goals as Rangers returned to domestic duties after European euphoria with a comprehensive 4-0 home victory over Ross County.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side qualified for the Champions League by beating PSV Eindhoven thanks to a solitary goal from the striker.

Back in the cinch Premiership, John Lundstram opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a deflected 25-yard drive before the in-form Croatia forward Colak scored a second after 39 minutes.

Rangers defender James Sands was perhaps lucky to escape picking up a second yellow card from the referee, Don Robertson, when the match was goalless and before he was substituted at the interval, with Van Bronckhorst admitting: “We already had James Sands on a booking and I think it was a close call that went our way.”

Colak added a third just before the hour mark – his seventh goal in seven games – and late substitute Steven Davis knocked in a fourth with 10 minutes remaining.

Rangers moved one point above Celtic, who play Dundee United at Tannadice with the chance to reclaim top spot.

As expected, Rangers grabbed the game from the kick-off against a County side who had Jack Baldwin and midfielder Ross Callachan suspended but it was no blitzkrieg.

Winger Ryan Kent fired just over the bar from the edge of the box in the second minute and Ross County keeper Ross Laidlaw denied Rangers defender Connor Goldson from close range seven minutes later.

Robertson ignored County claims when Sands, already booked for a foul on Jordy Hiwula, appeared to grab the striker to prevent him getting a clear run on goal.

Laidlaw saved from the elegant Rangers attacker Malik Tillman before Lundstram eventually beat the County keeper, taking a pass from Kent and firing in from distance with the help of a deflection for his first goal of the season.

Colak missed a decent opportunity to get his shot away as Rangers increased the tempo but from Scott Wright’s cut-back, the Croatia striker lifted the ball over Laidlaw and in at the far post.

Rangers ended the half with their captain, James Tavernier, leaping at the back post to head a Kent cross on to the bar.

Leon King replaced Sands for the start of the second half as it appeared Van Bronckhorst did not want to risk another card while, for County, Jordan Tillson came on for Victor Loturi.

County were put under siege. Ben Purrington headed a curling shot from Kent off the line but the winger soon set up Colak with a clever pass at the edge of the box for the striker to thrash the ball past Laidlaw from 15 yards.

Scott Arfield and Rabbi Matondo replaced Kent and Tillman to give the home side fresh legs and Laidlaw made saves from a deflected Tom Lawrence shot and a close-range drive from Colak, who was to be definitely denied his hat-trick when he was replaced by veteran midfielder Davis.

Davis converted a Tavernier pass from 14 yards and there was time for Laidlaw to grab Arfield’s attempted lob out of the air to prevent a fifth.

The decision not to send off Sands did not escape the attention of Malky Mackay, who told the BBC: “Your viewers will see tonight that Jordy rolls him and James Sands puts his arms around him, falls with him and should have been sent off.

“A straight red and, if it’s not a red, I don’t see why it’s not a second yellow. Rangers go and take him off at half-time, it’s clear as day for me. There was nothing blocking the referee’s view. I am really disappointed at that. These decisions are huge.”