Boyd double downs Inverness
Second half showing lifts Gers over struggling Inverness
Last Updated: 04/01/09 2:54pm
Mendes: Opened the scoring
Rangers have closed the gap on Celtic at the summit of the SPL table to five points following a 3-0 victory over struggling Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Rangers nearly took the lead from Nacho Novo's ambitious shot from the half-way line, while at the other end Ian Vigars was somehow denied by Allan McGregor.
The visitors caught Inverness napping after the restart with Pedro Mendes curling home the opening goal of the game within 24 seconds.
Gers controlled the proceedings after that, but they had to wait until nine minutes from the full-time whistle before Kris Boyd made the game safe for Walter Smith's side.
There was still time for Boyd to bag his second of the game six minutes later when he nodded home Steven Davis' cross at the back post to rub more salt into Inverness' wound.
Rangers seized the initiative from the start and Madjid Bougherra could have opened the scoring in the opening five minutes, but the defender dragged his shot wide.
Inverness weathered the early storm and started to push forward with Don Cowie and Vigurs combining well to create an opportunity for the latter but the young midfielder's touch deserted him at the vital moment.
Novo tried to lob Ryan Esson in an audacious manner from near the halfway line but the Spaniard's effort sailed harmlessly over.
A wonderful save from Allan McGregor to deny a Vigurs header from four yards prevented Caley taking the lead after 17 minutes with Bougherra well placed to clear the midfielder's follow-up effort.
An Inverness side growing in confidence continued to look for the opener with McGregor again called upon to thwart a Cowie snap-shot from the edge of the box.
Esson made his first save of the day after 32 minutes, gathering a Davis volley comfortably after a neat interchange between Mendes and Kenny Miller.
The game ebbed and flowed with Ian Black testing McGregor from distance before Miller crossed for Boyd who volleyed over at the other end.
The lively Vigurs then hit the side-netting from 25 yards before Cowie rounded McGregor but shot over from an acute angle as the first half drew to a close.
Caley's hard work in the first half was undone within the opening minute of the second half thanks to a moment of brilliance from Mendes.
The Portuguese midfielder curled the ball past a helpless Esson from the edge of the Caley box after good work by Novo and Miller.
A frustrated David Proctor picked up the first booking of the day after 50 minutes for a foul on Miller in a promising position with Boyd smashing the resulting free-kick into the Caley wall.
Rangers started to dominate proceedings and Novo was next to test Esson with a fierce drive from distance.
Chris Burke replaced the tiring Miller after 62 minutes with Novo moving forward to partner Boyd in attack, while Imrie came on for Black three minutes later.
Caley were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out when David Weir brought down Barrowman but Cowie shot straight into the wall after 67 minutes.
Boyd managed to squeeze in a shot from a tight angle a minute later that Esson did well to gather.
Ross Tokely was then relieved to see Esson save his goalbound clearance after Novo had dispossessed Russell Duncan.
Craig Brewster threw on another attacker with Adam Rooney replacing Vigurs after 73 minutes as the home side tried to get back onto level terms.
Mendes hobbled off with an injury after 78 minutes and was replaced by Steven Whittaker but it was fellow substitute Burke who almost grabbed a second after he sped away from Tokely before firing wide.
However, the away side doubled their advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining with Boyd grabbing his 19th goal of the season. He was played through by Davis and hammered the ball past Esson.
The prolific striker grabbed a second to make sure of the points when he headed home a Burke cross at the back-post following a quick free-kick by Barry Ferguson.
Novo could have added a fourth late on but Walter Smith's men had to settle for three goals and three points.