FootballSports

Rangers 2 – 0 Livingston

Rangers moved six points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a comfortable win over Livingston.

Jermain Defoe scored his 300th club career goal to add to Joe Aribo’s early opener, and even though Livi hit a post, Rangers continued their domination through the second half.

With Celtic dropping points at Aberdeen, Steven Gerrard’s side took full advantage to increase their lead at the league summit, having played one game more.

For Livingston, it is a second defeat in a row and they remain ninth in the table.

Since a 0-0 draw between the pair in August, both have had little problem in scoring. Rangers have hit 32 goals in 11 games, Livingston 17 in nine.

Each side had a lot to be motivated for in this fixture, too. Rangers were eyeing the chance to increase their lead at the top, while Livingston knew a win would lift them into the top six.

But Gary Holt’s men were made to pay early on for a lack of concentration in their own box. Ianis Hagi collected the ball and fed Jermain Defoe, whose shot was blocked, but the Livi defence ignored the threat of Aribo who slotted in unmarked six yards out.

As simple as the first was, Rangers’ second was a touch of class from Defoe. The 38-year-old – making his first start of the season – met James Tavernier’s inch-perfect long ball and glided a low, first-time shot past Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek from the edge of the box.

Livingston had failed to score on the road only once this season, and they almost elicited an instant response when Connor Goldson directed a cross off his own post. Agonisingly for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, the ball bounced off him and into the arms of goalkeeper Allan McGregor.

Good deliveries into the box just evaded Defoe and Tavernier when a tap-in would have secured a third goal for Rangers. But it was all very flat from the home side and Livi were threatening from set-pieces.

Jordan Jones was introduced as Gerrard attempted to spark some life into his side, and the Northern Ireland international forced a fine fingertip save from Stryjek.

A goal from the visitors would have made for a nervy ending, but McGregor had little to contend with as Rangers eased to another three points.

Man of the match

Ianis Hagi (right) takes on Livingston's Jason Holt
Ianis Hagi (right) was at the heart of much of Rangers good play with some neat defence-splitting passes

What did we learn?

Rangers did the hard work early on to race into a two-goal lead. But, after an Old Firm victory and Europa League success over Standard Liege on Thursday, coupled with Gerrard making five changes, there was a lethargy about Rangers after those early goals as they coasted to the three points. However they were never really required to get out of second gear after getting their noses in front.

After four wins in a row, Livingston have now lost two on the bounce. They conceded cheap goals against Kilmarnock last week, and were undone far too easily for Joe Aribo’s opener.

What did they say?

Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister: “It’s been a positive week with three 2-0 wins in a row. The thing that has pleased me is we’ve seen two very high calibre, high quality goals from Jermain Defoe and Kemar Roofe’s the other night.

“It’s a competitive squad, we’ve got two players for every position, and when they get a chance to get the jersey they’ve got to go and take it.”

Livingston head coach Gary Holt: “I thought we had a lot of positives, especially second half. We changed the system and Josh (Mullin) gave us more of an out ball, another threat going forward.

“We were more on the front foot second half, more aggressive against our opposite numbers, were in their faces a bit better and made it more difficult. Rangers are a good side, they get into areas, they pull you about, but the two goals we conceded were very soft from a defensive unit.”

What’s next?

With Celtic not in league action next week, Rangers could go nine points clear at the Premiership summit when they travel to Kilmarnock on Sunday, but they have a midweek Europa League tie at home to Lech Poznan of Poland first.

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Rangers 2 – 0 Livingston

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