·27 May 2023
·27 May 2023
Both teams had little to play for but the Gers attacker was determined to leave a lasting impression on the campaign, scoring following a solo run after 26 minutes before adding a second just after the break with a similar run and finish.
Fit-again Croatia striker Antonio Colak climbed off the Rangers bench to score a third in the 77th minute as the Ibrox side – consigned to finish runners-up to champions Celtic – enjoyed a comfortable finale to their trophyless season.
Boss Michael Beale, who took over from Giovanni Van Bronckhorst last November, has already begun the revamp of the squad he hopes can overcome treble-chasing Celtic and Gers supporters will welcome a very different team into the new season – but expectations will remain as high as ever.
Saints had reached the top six for the first time under the present league format but were without a win in their previous six games.
However, manager Stephen Robinson had stressed the season had been a success and for the last fling, there as a league debut for goalkeeper Peter Urminsky and first starts of the season for midfielder Coalan Boyd-Munce and attacker Lewis Jamieson.
For the visitors, goalkeeper Robby McCrorie replaced the departing Allan McGregor, with midfielders Ryan Jack and Ianis Hagi and attacker Rabbi Matondo starting.
Buddies defender Ryan Strain went off with an injury after just six minutes and – before he was replaced by Marcus Fraser – Matondo curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area which just escaped Urminsky’s left-hand post.
Sakala’s goal came when he took a pass from left-back Ridvan Yilmaz, slalomed across the Saints penalty area past a couple of black and white shirts before his shot struck Paisley defender Scott Tanser and limped over the line. The visiting fans at the other end of the ground seeming to take time before realising the ball was in the net.
Moments later, McCrorie made a decent save from captain Mark O’Hara’s header before the Rangers goalkeeper was caught by Curtis Main as he went for a Jamieson cross, the Paisley forward picking up a booking from referee Matthew MacDermid for his troubles.
Less than three minutes after the restart, Sakala added a second, again coming in from the left evading tackles and this time his low drive was clean and powerful as the ball sped past Urminsky.
St Mirren slowly began to work their way into the game, pushing Rangers backwards and giving them some defending to do.
Beale made a quadruple substitution in the 67th minute, bringing on Adam Devine, Borna Barasic, Scott Arfield and Colak with skipper James Tavernier, Yilmaz, Hagi and Sakala making way.
The changes did little to repel the Buddies who were working hard to get a lifeline in the game.
However, after firing a drive wide of the target from outside the box, Colak knocked the ball in from close range, after Todd Cantwell’s corner from the right had been flicked on by Nicolas Raskin, before taking the acclaim of the Rangers supporters behind the goal.
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