Livi bowed out of the Betfred Cup at the quarter-final stage with an agonising 1-0 defeat to Rangers at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Despite enjoying much of the play, the Lions were undone by Glen Kamara’s heavily-deflected strike inside four minutes as they were also left to rue a couple of controversial decisions that went against them.
Gary Holt made three changes to the starting line-up from the 2-0 defeat to Aberdeen as Lyndon Dykes returned from suspension alongside Matija Sarkic and Aymen Souda. Ross Stewart, Chris Erskine and Scott Robinson drooped to the bench.
The Lions were hoping to reach their first League Cup semi-final since 2005 but got off to the worst possible start as the visitors broke the deadlock inside four minutes when Kamara saw his speculative effort take a huge deflection off Nicky Devlin, completely wrong-footing Sarkic and sailing into the net.
Livi reacted well to the early setback and were quickly on the front foot, seeing huge penalty claims waved away by referee Don Robertson after Robbie Crawford went down in the box. Souda then swung in a deep corner two minutes that was met by Devlin but his header was deflected wide for another corner that the Rangers defence was able to clear.
The visitors made a rare venture forward on 18 minutes and Alfredo Morelos tried his luck from all of 25 yards but saw his effort sail harmlessly wide. Steven Gerrard was then forced into an early change four minutes later when Joe Aribo suffered a nasty cut to his head in an aerial clash with Ricki Lamie and had to be replaced by Steven Davis. The visitors fumed that an elbow had been used but pictures showed he had collided with Lamie’s shoulder blade.
Dykes battled well to win possession for the Lions on 24 minutes before trying his luck from long range but his effort flew high over the crossbar. At the other end, Sarkic pulled off a tremendous one-handed save to keep out Scott Arfield’s effort from close range. Dykes then picked up a yellow card on 34 minutes after catching Connor Goldson after the Rangers defender had cleared.
Livi continued to press and went close again on 37 minutes when Souda curled a free kick a couple of yards over the bar from 25 yards. Goldson then picked up a booking for the visitors after crudely halting a burst forward from Marvin Bartley. The resulting free kick was half-cleared to Keaghan Jacobs but he shot tamely over the bar.
Jacobs went much closer shortly after as he was teed up by Dykes for a low strike that had Allan McGregor at full stretch but flew inches the wrong side of the post. Then came a huge moment of controversy as Dykes burst through and was clearly taken out by Filip Helander. A free kick and a red card for the Rangers man seemed the only possible outcome but the referee inexplicably waved play on. Kamara then picked up a booking in added time as Rangers went in ahead at the break.
Half-time: Livingston 0-1 Rangers
Livi started the second half strongly and came within a whisker of equalising two minutes after the restart when Devlin burst down the right and into the box before firing a low effort across goal and inches wide. Bartley then forced Helander to concede a corner but Souda’s crosses curled out of play.
Dykes had a huge chance to draw the Lions level on 52 minutes when he ran clean through on McGregor but he put too much power on his lobbed finish and it dropped just the wrong side of the crossbar. Sarkic then kept Livi in the game five minutes later with a fine save to deny Sheyi Ojo after the on-loan Liverpool man had burst into the box. Ojo had another go shortly after but this time his effort was well wide.
Souda should have done better on 65 minutes when he burst into the box down the left hand side but his eventual shot was tame and trundled harmlessly wide. Souda then picked up a yellow card for a foul on Goldson moments later. Sarkic had to be alert once again on 67 minutes to keep out Arfield’s low effort from just inside the area.
Rangers made their second change 19 minutes from time when Kamara was replaced by Andy King before Livi made their first change soon after, Robinson coming on for Souda. The Lions’ second switch followed on 77 minutes as Steve Lawson replaced Bartley before Cece Pepe replaced Jack McMillan six minutes later.
The visitors pressed for a second goal in the closing stages but the Livi defence held firm. However the Lions weren’t able to fashion another opportunity to force extra-time as Rangers comfortably held on to secure their place in the last four.
Full-time: Livingston 0-1 Rangers
Livingston: Sarkic, Devlin, Guthrie, Lamie, McMillan (Pepe 64), Jacobs, Bartley (Lawson 77), Crawford, Lawless, Souda (Robinson 73), Dykes
Subs not used: Stewart, Sibbald, Stobbs, Tiffoney
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Brisic, Jack, Kamara (King 72), Aribo (Davis 22), Arfield, Ojo, Morelos
Subs not used: Foderingham, Katic, Halliday, Stewart, Defoe
Goals: Kamara (5)
Referee: Colin Steven
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine