Rangers “had a lot of anxiety to pass” before coming from behind twice in Michael Beale’s opener in charge to edge past Hibernian on the return from the Scottish Premiership.
Close second-half efforts from Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Jack secured victory which put the Ibrox side within six points of leaders Celtic.
But it was a tough first half for Beale with Hibs twice ahead in the first 16 minutes, by Ryan Porteous and then Kevin Nisbet, after Fashion Sakala equalized.
“We had a good conversation at half-time and said take the emotion out of the game and play the game for what it was,” the Rangers manager added.
“The first time the ball came close to our goal, it went in. Then everyone gets anxious and people take too many touches, so I asked them to go back to the style we practice every day. I said there would be chances in the second half.
“The reality that hit me tonight is that there is a lot of anxiety to go through, but the character of the team is good and we dominated in the second half and we deserved to win the game. “
Hibs, meanwhile, had lost six of their seven games before the World Cup break and that miserable run was extended, despite a spirited performance in Glasgow.
Consequently, the pressure is mounting on manager Lee Johnston. His stuttering side was desperate for something positive and, for a time, appeared on the right track before wilting in the second half.
Pre-match positivity had been around Rangers – after Beale replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst – and Ibrox responded with a loud thump at the start of proceedings, but that was quickly dampened in a frantic opener.
Elie Youan picked up on the edge of the box and fired a looping shot that Allan McGregor did well to reverse. The warning that went unheeded. From the resulting corner, Porteous got up unchallenged to power the opener.
The perfect start for Hibs. The nightmare scenario of the Rangers.
But Beale’s team came back strong. Sakala found space on the left, stabilized and superbly found the corner over David Marshall.
This calmed the crowd. But only for 53 seconds. Nisbet – in his first game since February after injury – burst into the space vacated by James Tavernier and fired a shot high into the net with the outside of his boot.
It was a wonderful run and a venomous strike, perhaps brimming with frustration at being sidelined for so long.
Hibs almost managed a third in the first half hour as the depleted Rangers back line worked poorly, Josh Campbell being released down the left by Porteous and his drive cutting the side netting.
Rangers slowly began to assert themselves and fend off their opponents, but they were met with a team wired to block, harass, do anything to maintain their lead.
Again, Hibs could have scored when Youan ran one-on-one against McGregor, but the veteran got up and saved his beleaguered back line. This ultimately proved to be vital.
The boos at halftime may have precipitated a reflection. Rangers just had to win this. Everything that was said worked.
They completely took hold after a structural overhaul and refused to let go. From a corner, Malik Tillman got a film and found Jack a yard away to go home.
We felt it coming and then, quickly, a second goal arrived. James Tavernier slipped a nice ball inside Tillman, who superbly dodged his man and laid the ball to a cheerful Morelos to head home.
Rangers handled the game comfortably from there and did what they had to do. To win.
player of the match
Beale Rangers pass stern test – analysis
It evolved into the sternest test for Rangers against a Hibs side who looked completely rejuvenated in the first half.
It was quite an enthralling contest for the most part and Johnson’s men played superbly for 45 minutes.
The pressure was already on for the home side before entering the break 2-1. Beale tinkered with his formation and whether it was that alone, half-time men management or Hibs dropping a level, he got an answer.
This will delight the new manager. They showed resilience and desire, but defensive frailties were there for all to see in that first half.
The result was all that mattered and they got it, giving them something to lean on to eliminate injuries.
what they said
Rangers manager Michael Beale: “We have to improve on set pieces. We lost Leon King this morning to illness. It wasn’t ideal. He was in the squad. Antonio Colak was also in the squad and he had a problem with his calf.
“The players had a lot to do in the last two weeks. It wasn’t at all what I wanted it to look like. We have a lot of work to do.”
Hibernian director Lee Johnson: “It was a very positive first 45 minutes, two great goals, and I thought we were in control of the ball.
“The boys put their bodies on the line and we defended very well. In the second half we started to falter a bit, we had players who hadn’t had 90 minutes. We couldn’t put ourselves in the game. ball like we did in the first half.
“But there are a lot of positives, a lot to build on. We need to put more minutes into the performance. We can, we will. It’s huge for us to have Nisbet and [Aiden] McGeady on the pitch.”
After a weekend off for both teams, Rangers travel to face Aberdeen on Tuesday (19:45 GMT) and Hibs then host Livingston on Christmas Eve (14:00).