Newly-promoted Livingston welcomed Rangers to the Toni Macaroni Arena in a match that saw the hosts take the 3 points from this Scottish Premiership fixture. Despite Gers fans taking over 3 of the 4 stands, Rangers still didn’t feel quite at home, as they searched for their first victory away from home since February.
This fixture started off like many other Rangers games. Gerrard’s men held the ball well and had taken control of the game, rarely giving the hosts a chance to hold possession for very long.
The 10th minute saw the start of what would be Livingston’s master plan to compete with their opponents. After giving away a free kick just inside their own half, the Gers now had to defend this set piece. Livingston floated the ball in towards to box, which was then headed down towards defender Alan Lithgow, who only had to tap it in- but it just went wide. This chance was a huge warning to Rangers, as it seemed that Livingston’s strength was to fight for the ball as if their lives depended on it.
A break for Rangers came 5 minutes later, as a threaded pass intended for striker Alfredo Morelos was played, but the Colombian failed to reach it after going down too easily upon coming into contact with the Livingston defence. The following minute saw ex-Hearts player Scott Robinson receive the first booking of the game after taking one for the team and bringing down Rangers captain James Tavernier. The Gers’ skipper would then waste away a brilliantly played pass from Ejaria just inside the box, causing no trouble for Livi’s backline.
Rangers got back into the game, as made evident by a well placed cross from Barisić, which met Coulibaly’s head- albeit with no real strength as Steven Gerrard’s side had their 1st chance on goal. Livingston continued to defend superbly, although not many chances would come their way. This was pointed out by Gers keep Alan McGregor, who urged his players to go forward and attack in a more direct manner. This would then lead to Ejaria taking a shot from outside Livi’s box on the half-hour mark, but goalie Liam Kelly collected it without any hassle.
Four minutes later and Livi would go in front thanks to Menga. The Angolan striker’s first goal for his club came from yet another cheap free kick that Rangers gave away just inside their own half. Once again, the ball was floated into the box, and after initially being cleared, it was opened up, and after nutmegging Barišić, Gallagher crossed the ball in to Menga, who slotted it home for his side. Ironically, this goal would come from open play, as Livingston really thrive from free kicks and long balls.
Barišić’s cross a few minutes later would find Ejaria’s head, but the Liverpool loanee couldn’t keep the ball from going high. Rangers regained the overall possession of the ball and they dominated the game once more, but they were reduced to simply passing it from one side to another. Livingston could have scored the second after a few loose balls inside the Rangers box, but nothing came from it as the half-time whistle blew.
The first 5 minutes of the 2nd half were extremely intense, as the Gers pushed to find the net and bring things level. Their urgency showed, as Morelos tried and failed to slot home a well-placed through ball from Candeias. It was clear that Livingston were holding their ground well.
The introduction of Ryan Kent gave Rangers a little bit more width to allow more crosses to be played, but nothing was working for Gerrard. Other than the linesman getting hit on the back of the head with an unidentified object- after failing to give a free kick to Rangers- the match was uneventful for the visitors, and they really struggled to find their strikers.
The 68th minute saw two consecutive chances for the home side. McGregor watched as a Livingston header went wide, before Lithgow attempted an audacious scorpion kick just inside the 6-yard box, which also went wide.
Despite Kent taking a shot from outside the box after wriggling his way through the defenders, Livingston were in a really comfortable position and they felt no pressure whatsoever.
The last 10 minutes of the match saw Livingston have another two chances on goal, whilst Rangers failed to finish any one of the crosses that their wide men put in. There were also a couple of penalty shouts from the Gers side, which were immediately dismissed by referee Craig Thomson.
— Livingston FC (@LiviFCOfficial) September 30, 2018
The game ended with a 1-0 win for the Premiership newboys. Gary Holt really had his side perform a defensive masterclass, as they successfully kept the Rangers players at bay for the majority of the 90 minutes. The Gers lacked real quality all over the pitch, and their away days continue to deny them points, as Steven Gerrard suffers his 2nd defeat as boss of the Ibrox club.
This win has put Livingston in third place and on everyone’s radar. Holt has guided his team superbly since taking over from Kenny Miller at the start of the season, winning 13 of 15 points and failing to lose a single game. Time will tell whether or not Livi can keep their tremendous form up for the rest of the Scottish Premiership season.
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