Rangers delayed Celtic’s Scottish Premiership title win with a deserved home triumph over Dundee United.
Only victory for the Europa League finalists was enough to postpone their rivals’ celebrations.
Fashion Sakala and Scott Arfield were denied by Benjamin Siegrist before the United goalkeeper fouled Sakala in the second half.
James Tavernier scored the resulting penalty and Sakala set up substitute Amad Diallo for the clinching goal.
Rangers reduce Celtic’s lead to six points with two games to go, with Ange Postecoglou’s side 21 goals better off.
United remain a point in front of fifth-placed Motherwell and on course for a European spot.
A Rangers team showing seven changes following Thursday’s thrilling and gruelling Europa League semi-final win against Leipzig took time to fully stretch their visitors, Sakala pouncing on a Charlie Mulgrew mistake to give Siegrist his first contribution.
Arfield exchanged passes with Steven Davis before drawing another fine save and Sakala spun well in the box only to shoot wide.
The Zambian tested Siegrist from wide on the left early in the second period but the goalkeeper was culpable when Sakala latched on to Aaron Ramsey’s chip.
The forward was pulled down, prompting a booking for the Swiss, and Tavernier converted confidently to the right.
United had to show more attacking intent and Ryan Edwards, buoyed by his recent strike against Hearts, flashed an effort over Jon McLaughlin’s goal and substitute Nicky Clark was wide with his effort.
Scott Wright’s half-time replacement Diallo, after being clattered by the booked Ross Graham, made an impact on Rangers’ right and sent a couple of efforts wide before converting Sakala’s pass for goal number two.
Man of the match – Fashion Sakala
What did we learn?
In Kemar Roofe’s continued absence, Sakala was the only recognised striker in Rangers’ starting line-up but started wide left. Scott Arfield was deployed in an advanced central role and linked well with Davis and Ramsey.
The second half featured a Rangers debut for Adam Devine, sent on with fellow youngsters Alex Lowry and Charlie McCann and joining teenage starter Leon King on the pitch as manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst rested players ahead of the Europa League and Scottish Cup finals.
United’s strategy was primarily one of containment, a task they performed admirably until the penalty incident. In attack, they struggled to create openings and still have work to do to secure a top-five finish and a Europa Conference League qualifying place.
What did they say?
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports: “Very pleased because it’s the last two weeks of the season and of course we have two major last games with the Europa League final and the [Scottish Cup] final. We want to keep going.
“Very happy that we could change some players. We could give some minutes to our academy players. We wanted a result and we wanted to keep our level of playing and I think we achieved that.”
Dundee United head coach Tam Courts told Sky Sports: “We’ve got to acknowledge that we were beaten by the better team. Rangers were in a good state of flow so all credit to them. We didn’t have enough influence with the football, enough attacking intent.
“I can have no complaints. Can’t fault the players for their effort, their application, their commitment. [European qualification] is still in our hands.”
Rangers play their final home match of the season on Wednesday against Ross County in the Scottish Premiership (19:45 BST) while Dundee United host Celtic (19:30), with the visitors needing only a draw to win the title.
- 2TavernierSubstituted forDevineat 66′minutes
- 31BarisicSubstituted forMcCannat 66′minutes
- 23WrightSubstituted forDialloat 45′minutes
- 16RamseySubstituted forKamaraat 79′minutes
- 30SakalaBooked at 25mins
- 37ArfieldSubstituted forLowryat 65′minutes
- 1SiegristBooked at 55mins
- 20NeilsonSubstituted forMcDonaldat 45′minutes
- 29GrahamBooked at 59minsSubstituted forMcMannat 73′minutes
- 17MeekisonSubstituted forMochrieat 79′minutes
- 58Anim CudjoeSubstituted forClarkat 56′minutes
- 32WattSubstituted forNiskanenat 72′minutes
Match ends, Rangers 2, Dundee United 0.
Second Half ends, Rangers 2, Dundee United 0.
Attempt blocked. Charlie McCann (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Steven Davis.
Foul by James Sands (Rangers).
Nicky Clark (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Steven Davis (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Scott McMann (Dundee United).
Attempt blocked. Steven Davis (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Connor Goldson (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Amad Diallo with a cross.
Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Ilmari Niskanen.
Steven Davis (Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Scott McMann (Dundee United).
Substitution, Dundee United. Chris Mochrie replaces Archie Meekison.
Substitution, Rangers. Glen Kamara replaces Aaron Ramsey.
Goal! Rangers 2, Dundee United 0. Amad Diallo (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Fashion Sakala.
Substitution, Dundee United. Scott McMann replaces Ross Graham.
Substitution, Dundee United. Ilmari Niskanen replaces Tony Watt.
Attempt blocked. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alexander Lowry.
Offside, Rangers. Alexander Lowry tries a through ball, but Amad Diallo is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Alexander Lowry (Rangers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Amad Diallo.