Livi produced a battling performance against runaway leaders Rangers but couldn’t avoid a fifth defeat of the season at Ibrox.
After the disappointment of last week’s home defeat to Morton, Mark Burchill’s side knew they were facing a huge challenge against Mark Warburton’s side who had scored at least three goals in four of their five league games so far this season. The Livi boss made three changes to his side from the Morton game as Craig Sives, Hugo Faria and Scott Pittman came in for Danny Mullen, Kieran Gibbons and the suspended Ben Gordon.
As you’d expect, it was the home side who started like a train and Livi captain Darren Cole was perhaps a little lucky to avoid a caution for a heavy challenge on Martyn Waghorn in the middle of the park inside two minutes. Rangers should have gone in front a minute later as the Livi defence was caught in possession and Waghorn raced clear but Darren Jamieson did well to save down low to his left. James Tavernier then broke down the right but saw his cross well blocked by Declan Gallagher, who even managed to win a goal kick.
Despite Rangers’ dominance, Livi passed up a decent chance on 12 minutes when Myles Hippolyte curled in a free kick which was met by Gallagher but his header was straight at Wes Foderingham. After his early escape, Cole was never going to be so fortunate again and he picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Nathan Oduwa. From the resulting free kick, Livi dealt with a training ground routine well but there was nothing Jamieson could do about a 25-yard screamer from Lee Wallace which flew high into the net to break the deadlock.
Livi showed signs of life in response to the opening goal and Pittman linked up well with Liam Buchanan to release Gary Glen but the offside flag was raised against the ex-Hearts man. Gallagher then played the ball through for Buchanan but Foderingham was off his line sharply to gather.
Hippolyte and Pittman then linked up neatly before the latter was bundled over in the box – it would have been soft but was definitely in the ‘seen them given’ category. Rangers were similarly frustrated when both Waghorn and Gideon Zelalem went down in the box only for their appeals to fall on deaf ears. Jackson Longridge then picked up a booking for a foul on Oduwa before Livi were forced into a change as Morgyn Neill replaced the injured Sives.
Livi came agonisingly close to a shock equaliser when Buchanan let fly from 25 yards and forced Foderingham into a spectacular fingertip save to send his effort over the crossbar. Ross Millen then tried his luck with a 25 yard free kick but his curling effort flew over the bar. Rangers then came close to a second when free kick specialist Tavernier curled an effort inches wide with Jamieson at full stretch. Faria then found Hippolyte in space on the left but he sent an effort high and wide.
Rangers made Livi pay for their missed chances as they doubled their lead on 40 minutes when Waghorn held the ball up before wriggling free and firing an effort into the net off the post to make it 2-0. Oduwa then came close to a third before the break as he curled an effort just the wrong side of the post, ensuring Livi were only the two goals behind as they headed in at the interval.
Half-time: Rangers 2 – 0 Livingston
The second half started very quietly with only a couple of free kicks from Tavernier and Halliday for Rangers, both of which went straight into the wall. Rangers then made a double change as Kenny Miller and Nicky Law replaced Jason Holt and Barrie McKay before Livi made their second switch, sending Danny Mullen on in place of Buchanan. Mullen had an instant half-chance as he tried to latch on to Hippolyte’s cross but Foderingham punched clear.
Rangers made their final chance as Dean Shiels replaced Zelalem before Livi appealed for a penalty when Mullen was bundled over in the box but Greg Aitken was again unmoved. Rangers made the most of that let off to make it 3-0 on 78 minutes as patient build-up ended with Law being played clean through to fire a shot high beyond Jamieson and into the net.
Livi made a final switch in injury time as Gibbons came on in place of Pittman and forced a final chance as a free kick found Hippolyte in the box and he spun before firing an effort over the bar as the Lions’ search for a consolation proved in vain and Rangers ran out comfortable winners.
Full-time: Rangers 3 – 0 Livingston
Next up for the Lions is a visit from Hibernian this coming Saturday before a crucial double-header with Alloa and Dumbarton to round off the first quarter of the season.
Rangers: Foderingham, Tavernier, Kiernan, Wallace, Wilson, Zelalem (Shiels 74), Halliday, Holt (Law 64), Oduwa, McKay (Miller 64), Waghorn
Subs not used: Ball, Aird, Kelly, Hardie
Goals: Wallace (16), Waghorn (41), Law (80)
Livingston: Jamieson, Millen, Longridge, Sives (Neill 27), Gallagher, Cole, Pittman (Gibbons 90), Faria, Hippolyte, Glen, Buchanan (Mullen 70)
Subs not used: Gould, White, Georgiev, Sheerin
Referee: Greg Aitken
Match Report: Andy Crawford