It was one of Rangers’ least impressive performances of the season which certainly does not augur well for next Sunday’s Old Firm showdown at Parkhead, even although there were a number of key players missing from the starting line-up.
They just struggled all day to cope with the work rate and determination of Livi and that is despite making the ideal start by scoring through Lorenzo Amoruso.
However, after 23 game unbeaten McLeish tasted defeat for the first time and there is no doubt that he would have had plenty to say to his players after this.
There was also the added complication of Tony Vidmar going off injured after 38 minutes which has only added to Big Eck’s problems.
Amoruso was lamenting the inability of his striking colleagues to find the net in Rangers’ Euro campaign in the build-up to this match and he took just three minutes to show them what it’s all about.
The big Italian, wearing the captain’s armband, timed his run perfectly to connect with Andre Kanchelskis’ corner from the left and powered a textbook header into the Livingston net to give Rangers just the start they wanted.
It was fair to assume that it would have spurred Rangers onto to complete domination of the contest, but Livi have not reached the brink of European qualification as a team which capitulates.
Their hard work in midfield in particular denied Rangers the opportunity to set the pace of the game and there was no doubt that Livi deserved to be level by half-time.
The pairing of Nerlinger and Latapy in midfield – which was borne out of necessity due to the Ibrox injury problems – was just not the right mix while Maurice Ross suffered a difficult time from Cherif Toure Maman.
Cherif robbed Ross in 11 minutes and moved the ball forward to the tireless Quino who set up Barry Wilson on the edge of the Rangers box. Wilson seemed certain to score but the pressure exerted by Tony Vidmar forced the Livi striker to pull his shot wide.
The powerful African then forced a brilliant point-blank save from Stefan Klos on 31 minutes and there was little doubt that the SPL new boys were edging ever close to levelling the game.
Sadly for Vidmar, he was forced out of the game in 38 minutes with an injury and Arthur Numan came on and there was worse to come for Rangers as Wilson more than made up for his earlier miss with a stunning equaliser four minutes later.
It was fullback Didier Santini who picked Wilson out on the edge of the box and he hammered a right foot shot into the top left corner and it was everything Livi deserved.
There had been some flashes of encouraging play most notably when Michael Mols brilliant turned away from Marvin Andrews in 22 minutes and then hit a left foot shot which Javier Sanchez Broto could not hold but these moments were few and far between.
Nerlinger did have a 30-yard shot in 27 minutes which flew just over the bar and Neil McCann almost succeeded in setting up Dodds two minutes earlier but his shot was blocked.
However, there was quite a lot about the first half for Alex McLeish to be concerned about and there seems little doubt that he relayed his feelings to the players at half-time.
Ross may have had some difficulties in the first period, but he almost fired Rangers back in front just seven minutes into the second half after some good refereeing by Stuart Dougal.
There was no doubt that Dodds was fouled by Rubio but Dougal smartly played the advantage and Nerlinger poked the ball through to Ross who tried to curl a left foot shot into the top right corner but Broto brilliantly pawed it over the bar.
Indeed Ross grew in stature throughout the second half and came bursting forward again in 67 minutes, running onto Kanchelskis’ flick, but he ran the ball out instead of squaring the ball to Dodds who was in a good position.
Still, there was still little for the Rangers fans to be excited about and McLeish opted for changes in an attempt to win the game with Tore Andre Flo and Peter Lovenkrands coming in for Dodds and Mols.
However, neither player had any effect and worse than that Rangers lost the game two minutes from time when Livi produced a stunning second goal.
Lee Makel worked the ball to David Fernandez on the right side of the box and the Spaniard cut it back for Stuart Lovell who fired a sensational hitch-kick into the left corner of Klos’s goal.
It was a quite miserable end to a miserable day for Rangers who will need to raise their game considerably for next week’s trip to Celtic Park.
LIVINGSTON: Broto; Brinquin, Andrews, Rubio, Santini; Tosh, Makel, Quino, Cherif (Lovell 58); Fernandez (Caputo 90), Wilson (Jokovic 82). Subs not used – McEwan, Bolan.
RANGERS: Klos; Ross, Malcolm, Amoruso, Vidmar (Numan 38); Kanchelskis, Latapy, Nerlinger; Dodds (Flo 74), Mols (Lovenkrands 80). Subs not used – McGregor, Caniggia.
Ref: Stuart Dougal.
Man of the match: Lorenzo Amoruso
Moment of the match: Amo’s header was about all Rangers could be happy about.