CARELESS Rangers let two points slip on day one of the season when they paid for missed chances and lost their concentration when it mattered most
It had not been a great performance, but leading 1-0 through Shota Arveladze’s goal, the Ibrox men should have had enough in their locker to claim the victory they wanted.
Instead, they allowed Killie to come back into the game and Andy McLaren hit an equaliser 11 minutes from time and Alex McLeish was raging.
He let the players have it in the dressing room for at least half and hour after the final whistle and if some of them were unsure what the manager wants from them, they know now.
Rangers cut a swathe in their dazzling new tangerine kit, but there was not much zest about their play. They seemed sluggish to say the least. Maybe it was the muggy air.
Whatever it was, Alex McLeish was far from content – especially as Killie had the better of the midfield exchanges in the early part of the game. Indeed Stefan Klos had to make two excellent saves at that stage.
He dealt comfortably with Ally Mitchell’s drive in nine minutes but Klos has to use all of his agility to deal with Gary McSwegan’s ferocious 25-yarder in 14 minutes, pushing the ex-Ranger’s strike wide for a corner.
Only Ronald de Boer, Barry Ferguson and Fernando Ricksen seemed to be on the right wavelength but gradually the Ibrox men managed to impose themselves.
Lovenkrands shot straight at Marshall from a tight angle in 26 mintues after de Boer had knocked the ball into his path and five minutes later Rangers had the lead.
Arteta’s corner was headed out by Freddie Dindeleux. It broke to Ferguson who cleverly played the ball to the back post wher de Boer headed it across the face and Shota Arveladze nodded the ball past Marshall.
Rangers got into their flow now and moved the ball well across the face of the Killie box, retaining possession with ease but without puncturing the Killie defence again when their domination merited it.
In fairness, Killie retreated making life difficult for Rangers. Ferguson did test Marshall with a well struck right foot shot which the Killie keeper spilled but Lovenkrands could do nothing with the rebound.
The young Dane might have made the game relatively safe for Rangers had he shown more composure just four minutes into the second half, although he did at last force Marshall into a good save.
De Boer played a quick free kick to Arteta who played a lovely ball over the top of the Killie defence for Lovenkrands to chase. Naturally, it was no contest. The pace of Peter took him clear of Dindeleux and the Rangers fans behind Marshall’s goal held their breath.
Lovenkrands probably had time to bring the ball down and direct his shot but he chose to hit it first time and Marshall managed to make a great block diving to his right.
In 57 minutes the woodwork denied Rangers when Lorenzo Amoruso connected with Neil McCann’s corner and his header crashed against the junction of post and bar.
Rangers were then looking for a penalty in 61 minutes when Ferguson’s cross from the right seemed to hit Mitchell’s arm but Kenny Clark was well placed and waved play on.
McLeish’s men were still in control but they could not administer the killer blow which would have put the game beyond Killie and, of course, they were made to pay.
De Boer did play in Arveladze in 66 minutes and he forced a decent save from Marshall with a low shot which the keeper blocked at his right hand post, but a pass into the middle might have been more productive.
At this stage it looked as though 1-0 might have been enough, but Killie showed determination to come back and they deserved their equaliser in 79 minutes.
That said, the Rangers defence did not look too clever as Gary Hay’s corner came in. Andy McLaren capitalised on the hesitancy and slammed a left foot shot into the net from six yards.
Rangers fought hard to try and win it and they had chances. Lovenkrands headed Latapy’s cross over the top in 81 minutes and then Marshall just managed to get enough of his left glove on Latapy’s 85th minute strike.
Of course, it was a disappointing way to kick off the season but McLeish knows that Rugby Park will be a difficult venue for any team this season.
KILMARNOCK: Marshall; Shields, Hessey, Sanjuan, Dindeleux, Hay; Mitchell (Boyd 72), Mahood, Fulton; Dargo (McLaren 63), McSwegan (McLaughlin 89). Subs not used – Meldrum, McDonald.
Bookings: Mahood (19)
RANGERS: Klos; Ricksen, Moore, Amoruso, Numan; Arteta (Konterman 75), de Boer (Latapy 69), Ferguson; Arveladze, Lovenkrands, McCann (Flo 82). Subs not used – McGregor, Ross.
Ref: Kenny Clark.
Man of the match: Fernando Ricksen – Very solid performance from the Dutchman who scarcely put a foot wrong.