St Johnstone 0-3 Rangers: Visitors go two points clear at top of Scottish Premiership

James Tavernier’s two penalties made sure of the points for Rangers

Rangers moved two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a determined and deserved victory at St Johnstone.

With overnight leaders Celtic having drawn with Kilmarnock on Saturday, the visitors in Perth had the chance to open up a gap and led through Mohamed Diomande’s first-half strike.

And two VAR-awarded penalties converted by visiting captain James Tavernier in the second period made sure of the points for Philippe Clement’s new league leaders.

Having been seven points behind after losing to Aberdeen in September in what proved to be Michael Beale’s last game in charge, the Ibrox side have erred little since under the Belgian.

However, with 12 league games to play each, the situation at the top is still very tight with Rangers having scored two fewer goals than Celtic while conceding five fewer.

Craig Levein’s St Johnstone remain 10th, five points above Ross County and eight in front of Livingston.

The opening 36 minutes came and went without so much as a significant attempt, never mind one on target.

But when such an effort arrived, it was impressive as Diomande took one touch to control Ryan McGowan’s clearance and struck fiercely past Dimitar Mitov. It was the midfielder’s first goal since joining Rangers on loan from Nordsjaelland last month, with a permanent move to be completed in the summer.

Rangers’ confidence was growing, as was their territorial advantage. Todd Cantwell flicked an effort wide and St Johnstone had to scramble clear a couple of dangerous moments to get to the break one down.

And Fabio Silva almost put the game beyond Saints early in the second half as his snapshot brought out the best in Mitov.

St Johnstone knew they needed to change the pattern of the game to avoid defeat and Tavernier’s aerial challenge on Connor Smith provoked home hopes of a penalty, quickly dashed by referee Matthew MacDermid.

Dujon Sterling, on for Scott Wright at half-time, missed a big chance to double Rangers’ lead when he glanced a header wide from Cantwell’s cross.

It was one of Cantwell’s last contributions as he made way for Tom Lawrence and strapped ice to his leg on the bench.

St Johnstone almost found themselves level when John Lundstram’s defensive header at a free-kick flicked just over.

But the game began to get away from the hosts after Sterling went down following Andy Considine’s sliding challenge. Referee MacDermid was initially unmoved but VAR intervened and the referee decided a spot-kick should be awarded. Tavernier’s finish to the goalkeeper’s left was emphatic.

Cyriel Dessers took over from Silva and almost got round Mitov to net a third for Rangers but slightly overran it and allowed Liam Gordon to usher the ball out.

Dessers then hit the crossbar in the build-up to Rangers second penalty, ultimately awarded for a handball against Luke Robinson following Lawrence’s shot.

And with that, Rangers knew they would be returning to Glasgow with victory.

Player of the match – Mohamed Diomande

Mohamed Diomande scores for Rangers against St Johnstone
The January signing fully announced his arrival at Rangers with an excellent goal and a fine midfield display

Keeping initiative now the challenge for Rangers – analysis

Manager Philippe Clement has been adamant in recent times that he is not “busy” with what Celtic or anyone else is doing, only “busy” with Rangers.

So far, that approach has worked with 22 wins from 26 games and nine wins out of nine in all competitions so far in 2024.

The initiative is now theirs but Celtic’s vast experience in winning league titles and two more Old Firm derbies to play before the season’s end mean Rangers can be anything other than complacent.

For St Johnstone, Saturday’s defeat for Ross County at Dundee softens the blow of this loss but Livingston’s first win since October shows the Perth side still have work to do to preserve their top-flight status.

What the managers said

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: “We completed well for the 90 minutes. Things changed with about 20 minutes to go because we had to try and get something goals-wise. Most of Rangers; chances came in that period.

“It’s another two VAR goals. They must be the top scorers in the league this year, the VAR goals. The second one I don’t think is anything like a penalty. The first one was a reasonable decision.”

What’s next?

Both sides have six days off with Rangers at home to Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday (15:00 GMT), with St Johnstone away to St Mirren at the same time.


St Johnstone

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 1Mitov
  • 5McGowanBooked at 74mins
  • 6Gordon
  • 4Considine
  • 33KeltjensBooked at 35minsSubstituted forMbunga Kimpiokaat 45′minutes
  • 11Carey
  • 34PhillipsBooked at 71mins
  • 19Robinson
  • 22Smith
  • 50SmithSubstituted forKucheryavyiat 80′minutes
  • 16SidibehSubstituted forClarkat 82′minutes


  • 3Gallacher
  • 10Clark
  • 13Jaiyesimi
  • 15Kucheryavyi
  • 17Olufunwa
  • 23Sprangler
  • 29Mbunga Kimpioka
  • 31Richards
  • 35Smith


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Butland
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 5Souttar
  • 31BarisicSubstituted forYilmazat 82′minutes
  • 42Diomande
  • 4Lundstram
  • 23WrightSubstituted forSterlingat 45′minutes
  • 13CantwellSubstituted forLawrenceat 60′minutes
  • 16CortésSubstituted forMcCauslandat 69′minutes
  • 7Fábio SilvaSubstituted forDessersat 69′minutes


  • 3Yilmaz
  • 9Dessers
  • 11Lawrence
  • 21Sterling
  • 27Balogun
  • 28McCrorie
  • 38King
  • 43Raskin
  • 45McCausland

Matthew MacDermid


Live Text

Player of the match

SterlingDujon Sterling

St Johnstone

  1. Squad number1Player nameMitov

  2. Squad number6Player nameGordon

  3. Squad number5Player nameMcGowan

  4. Squad number4Player nameConsidine

  5. Squad number10Player nameClark

  6. Squad number34Player namePhillips

  7. Squad number29Player nameMbunga Kimpioka

  8. Squad number33Player nameKeltjens

  9. Squad number19Player nameRobinson

  10. Squad number50Player nameSmith

  11. Squad number22Player nameSmith

  12. Squad number16Player nameSidibeh

  13. Squad number15Player nameKucheryavyi

  14. Squad number11Player nameCarey


  1. Squad number21Player nameSterling

  2. Squad number1Player nameButland

  3. Squad number42Player nameDiomande

  4. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

  5. Squad number13Player nameCantwell

  6. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

  7. Squad number5Player nameSouttar

  8. Squad number11Player nameLawrence

  9. Squad number45Player nameMcCausland

  10. Squad number16Player nameCortés

  11. Squad number3Player nameYilmaz

  12. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

  13. Squad number7Player nameFábio Silva

  14. Squad number31Player nameBarisic

  15. Squad number23Player nameWright

  16. Squad number9Player nameDessers

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