Livi produced a commendable performance in defeat at Ibrox as the scoreline failed to accurately reflect the balance of play.
The Lions were only a Daniel Candeias goal down with seven minutes to play but, as they took more risks in search of an equaliser, were hit on the break twice in quick succession, first by Alfredo Morelos before Scott Arfield rounded off the scoring.
Gary Holt made two changes to the starting line-up from the goalless draw with Celtic two weeks earlier as Ricki Lamie and Scott Robinson came in for Stevie Lawless and the suspended Dolly Menga.
As expected, Rangers made a strong start and came close on six minutes when Candeias’ cross found Kyle Lafferty but his header flew over the bar. Livi then came within a whisker of taking a shock lead four minutes later when a free kick wasn’t cleared and Shaun Byrne’s deflected shot fell to Alan Lithgow but he could only poke the ball wide of the post.
Rangers were soon back on the front foot and Ovie Ejaria was given far too much time to storm forward on 15 minutes but his effort from the edge of the box flew wide. The home side then had two quick fire chances a minute later but Liam Kelly made a fine save from the first effort before Lithgow cleared the rebound off the line.
The inevitable happened five minutes later as Steven Gerrard’s side broke the deadlock with a goal that was frustrating for the Livi management in its simplicity. Glenn Middleton’s corner from the left was met by Candeias who headed past Kelly. The Livi keeper protested that he had been impeded by referee Nick Walsh.
Livi almost hit back right away as Lithgow was picked out in the box but he sent his header wide before Lafferty saw an effort brilliantly blocked by Craig Halkett as he looked to double Rangers’ lead. Scott Arfield picked up a yellow card after catching Bobby Burns with a high boot on 28 minutes and, after the resulting free kick was cleared for a corner, Byrne fired an effort high over the bar.
Halkett saw a free kick well saved by Allan McGregor on 32 minutes before, up the other end, James Tavernier’s cross was met by Arfield but he sent his effort harmlessly wide. Candeias then almost grabbed a fortuitous second but Kelly did well to adjust and prevent his cross dropping into the net.
Slack play at the back from the Lions almost gifted the home side a second as Lafferty was allowed through on goal but he fired wide. Candeias then headed a corner wide on the strike of half time as Livi went in at the break perhaps fortunate to only be a goal down.
Half-time: Rangers 1-0 Livingston
Livi made a lively start to the second half and had a big appeal for a penalty five minutes after the restart when Burns appeared to be tripped by McGregor. The Gers keeper’s sheepish reaction suggested the Lions may have had a case but the referee waved the claims away.
The Lions enjoyed a flurry of pressure, albeit without threatening the Rangers goal too much, but it was enough to force Gers boss Steven Gerrard to call top scorer Alfredo Morelos from the bench in place of Kyle Lafferty on 62 minutes. Livi made their first change a minute later as Lawless replaces Burns. Craig Sibbald then replaced Byrne seven minutes later.
The changes kept coming as Robinson was replaced by Jack Hamilton on 74 minutes before the hosts replaced Andy Halliday with Jon Flanagan three minutes later. Livi then came close to an equaliser on 78 minutes when a superb pass from Steve Lawson found Lamie and his cross eventually fell to Lawless but he headed straight at McGregor. Rangers replaced Ejaria with Lassana Coulibaly ten minutes from time before a long throw from Lithgow fell to Jacobs but his volley flew wide.
Livi were taking more risks now as they looked for an equaliser, which allowed Rangers more space to hit on the break and they sealed the three points seven minutes from time as Morelos was able to waltz his way towards goal before firing a powerful effort beyond Kelly to make it 2-0. The Colombian then showed the other side of his personality three minutes later as he needlessly talked himself into a yellow card.
The scoreline took on a decidedly flattering slant for the home side two minutes from time, Arfield making it 3-0 with a close range finish as, despite their impressive second half performance, the Lions suffered a third defeat in four Premiership matches.
Full-time: Rangers 3-0 Livingston
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, McAuley, Halliday (Flanagan 77), Jack, Candeias, Ejaria (Coulibaly 80), Arfield, Middleton, Lafferty (Morelos 62)
Subs not Used: Worrall, Foderingham, Rossiter, Grezda
Goals: Candeias (20), Morelos (83), Arfield (88)
Livingston: Kelly, Burns (Lawless 63), Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lamie, Lawson, Byrne (Sibbald 69), Jacobs, Pittman, Robinson (Hamilton 74)
Subs not used: Stewart, Kaja, McMillan, Cadden
Referee: Nick Walsh
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine