Livingston travelled to Ibrox for the second time this season as they faced a difficult test against Rangers, this time in the Premier Sports Cup after a 3-0 defeat on the opening day of the cinch Premiership.
Manager David Martindale made three changes to the side that beat Celtic 1-0 at the weekend, earning The Lions their first league victory of the season. Jackson Longridge, Jack McMillan and Ben Williamson made way for Odin Bailey and Cristian Montano, while there was a debut for new signing Stephane Omeonga.
Rangers started the match on the front foot as you’d expect, looking to grab an early goal in similar fashion to the league fixture in July. Joe Aribo picked up the ball in a dangerous position but a well-timed challenge prevented the Gers midfielder pulling the trigger.
Just three minutes later, Steven Gerrard’s side should have taken the lead with a guilt-edge chance through Nathan Patterson. The young full back was slipped through on goal, one on one with Max Stryjek, but was denied by a fantastic save from the Livi keeper.
Rangers were racking up the chances. Scott Wright was found by Glen Kamara 30 yards from goal, and drove into space trying a low strike from the edge of the area but it drifted wide of the target.
The Lions were camped in their own half, trying to create the odd opportunity on the break but to no avail.
On 21 minutes, it should have been 1-0. A brilliant, pinpoint 60-yard pass from Connor Goldson was met by Calvin Bassey in the left channel. The defender took it down well and cut inside onto his weaker right foot but, with the goal gaping, fired over the bar from inside the box.
The Light Blues had another opportunity to take the lead later in the half. Some lovely build-up play ended with Aribo slipping in Alfredo Morelos. The Colombian beat Stryjek with his finish, but Livi captain Nicky Devlin was there on the line to clear away the danger, preventing a certain goal.
The last chance of the half fell to Glen Kamara as he looked to celebrate his contract extension in style. The Finland international picked up a loose ball, drove into space and struck from distance. The low effort flew wide of the target as the sides went in at half time goalless.
Half Time: Rangers 0-0 Livingston
Steven Gerrard looked to his bench at the break, bringing on Ianis Hagi for Scott Wright. The Romanian had an immediate impact as Rangers took the lead just two minutes after the restart. The hosts capitalised on a slack pass in the Livi midfield, and Hagi was given the ball inside the box. The midfielder drove to the byline and cut back for Kemar Roofe who couldn’t miss from close range, tapping home to put his side in front.
Hagi nearly set up another four minutes later when he whipped in a teasing cross for Leon Balogun. The defender met the delivery well, but headed just wide of the post to Livingston’s relief.
Rangers’ pressing was giving The Lions little time on the ball and Omeonga was caught in possession by Morelos. The striker tried to punish the mistake but Stryjek tipped an edge of the box effort over the bar.
Again, Livingston were caught on the ball. Jack Fitzwater’s slack pass fell right to the feet of Morelos, who opted to pass to a teammate this time. Roofe received the ball, but Stryjek was there again to deny the Englishman with his feet as Livi breathed yet another sigh of relief.
On the hour mark, there was another brilliant save from Stryjek as Aribo squared for Roofe. Rangers reworked the second ball and the Livi keeper was there again to deny Morelos too.
The Polish stopper was keeping his side in the game, but it was a moment to forget on 63 minutes as he gifted Rangers their second. His misplaced pass fell right to the feet of Alfredo Morelos and the composed Colombian picked his spot, firing beyond Stryjek.
With 15 minutes to play, Connor Goldson nearly made it 3-0 but for another great stop from the Livi goalkeeper. Ianis Hagi’s corner found the central defender who connected well with a powerful header, but Stryjek pushed away from close range.
The visitors searched for a goal to try and get them back into the game, but it wasn’t to be. Steven Gerrard’s side were just too strong on the night for The Lions, aa they bow out of the Premier Sports Cup at the Quarter Final stage. Up next for David Martindale’s men it’s back to league action with a trip to Tynecastle to take on high-flying Hearts.
Match Report: Calum Brown
Rangers: McLaughlin, Patterson (Tavernier 62), Goldson, Balogun, Bassey ▊, Lundstram, Kamara, Aribo (Arfield 77), Wright (Hagi 46), Roofe (Sakala 77), Morelos (Bacuna 70)
Subs not used: McGregor, Barisic, Davis, Barker
Goals: Roofe (48), Morelos (63)
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Obileye, Fitzwater ▊, Penrice ▊, Holt, Omeonga, Lewis (McMillan 45), Bailey, Montaño (Forrest 59), Shinnie (Anderson 70)
Subs not used: Barden, Longridge, Kelly, Pittman, Panayiotou, Hamilton
Referee: Don Robertson