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African All Stars

Rangers’ Aribo makes Afcon 2021 statement with goal versus Hearts

15:15 GMT 12/12/2021
Rangers and Nigeria midfielder Joe Aribo.
The Nigeria international found the net as the Gers secured an away victory over the Jambos on Sunday

Joe Aribo showed signs of what could be expected of him at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a goal as Rangers secured a 2-0 away win over Hearts in Sunday’s Scottish Premiership outing.

The Nigeria midfielder capped off an impressive display by finding the net as the Gers maintained their lead at the summit of the log.

Heading into the fixture billed for the Tynecastle Park in Edinburgh, the Jambos were still basking in the euphoria of their triumph over Livingston, while the visitors were unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions.

Hearts began the game on a bright note and they almost took the lead within one minute but goalkeeper Allan McGregor tipped Liam Boyce’s effort over the bar.

In the ninth minute, the visiting side took the lead through Alfredo Morelos after he was sent through by Zambia international Fashion Sakala.

Sakala could have doubled Rangers’ advantage two minutes later but he could not find the net despite receiving a fine pass from Ryan Kent, who had skinned Taylor Moore.

In the 13th minute, Aribo doubled the Gers’ advantage after smashing the ball past goalkeeper Craig Gordon after he was teed up by Connor Goldson’s defence-splitting pass.

Although the hosts tried to reduce their deficit, they were unlucky in front of goal as they went into the half-time break with a two-goal disadvantage.

Scott Arfield could have made it 3-0 for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men a minute before the hour mark, but goalkeeper Gordon did well to stop the goal-bound effort.

Hearts’ ambition of launching a late comeback faded into the thin air as Josh Ginnelly was given his marching orders for a second caution.

Super-sub Benjamin Woodburn tested McGregor with an effort on 85 minutes, and he was lively to deny Boyce from the rebound before the Gers used their man advantage to keep the ball well inside the Hearts half.

Aribo – who now boasts six league goals in the 2021-22 campaign - was in action from start to finish alongside Calvin Bassey. Sakala was substituted for John Lundstram with 10 minutes left to play.

Aribo and Bassey are expected to make Nigeria’s cut for the 2021 Afcon billed for Cameroon. Gernot Rohr’s Super Eagles have been zoned in Group D alongside Egypt, Sudan and Guinea Bissau.

For Sakala, he will not be playing at the biennial football showpiece following Chipolopolo’s failure to qualify.