The clichéd formbook was not only ripped up but shredded into millions of pieces as Rangers confounded the critics to record an unexpected but very welcome win.
Records tumbled along the way. Charlie Adam netted his first competitive goal, Kris Boyd claimed a debut strike in European competition while Nacho Novo gleefully netted his first goal of the season.
In doing so they brought about Rangers’ first ever victory in Italy and handed Livorno their first taste of defeat at home all season, something neither Fiorentina nor AC Milan had been capable of doing on league duty.
It was a tremendous result carved out on the back of the sort of resilient team performance that had been badly missing in recent weeks.
Rain had fallen heavily in Livorno – Tuscany’s answer to Greenock it seemed – throughout the day and the gloomy climate seemed rather apposite at kick-off given the stormy week endured by Rangers in the lead up to the match, most notably the SPL defeat to Inverness Caley at Ibrox and Le Guen’s decision to leave Phil Bardsley at home following a training ground altercation.
The young Englishman’s absence, Sasa Papac’s ineligibility and a rash of injuries to several other players at least deleted any selection dilemmas Le Guen may otherwise have had: anyone fit played.
It meant a rare start for Novo – only his second of the season – and places on the bench for inexperienced figures such as Antoine Ponroy, William Stanger and Mahktar N’Diaye.
As expected Livorno’s left-winger, in the political as well as the traditional football sense, Cristiano Lucarelli returned to the starting line-up after declaring himself fully fit although there was a surprise in the home line-up when Stefano Morrone was left on the bench.
The midfielder was apparently rested with a view to Livorno’s Serie A match with Siena this weekend with coach Daniele Arrigoni clearly confident that his team could manage without him against a Rangers team seemingly struggling for consistency and bereft of confidence. How wrong he was.
After weathering Livorno’s predictable early stampede towards their goal – that included a few nervy moments for Lionel Letizi – Le Guen’s side grew in stature and began to look comfortable in possession.
What followed was a quite extraordinary passage of play that brought four goals in the space of just eight minutes, three of them for the visitors.
Like the autumn rain, the goals fell in torrents and all of them represented personal milestones as well as huge strides towards reviving a Rangers side that had been struggling to find form in recent weeks.
After the initial sparring, it was Adam who sent Livorno to the canvas for the first time when he opened the scoring after 27 minutes.
It was a well-worked goal; Boyd cushioned Steven Smith’s cross into the path of Adam who leathered it past Marco Amelia from all of 25 yards for his first ever competitive Rangers goal.
It was a great start and more was to follow just two minutes later. Novo skipped away from Samuel Kuffour and was heading goalwards when the on-loan defender illegally halted his progress.
The Spaniard looked desperate to take the spot kick himself but intervention from Barry Ferguson saw Boyd handed the ball and he clinically vindicated his captain’s decision, sending Amelia the wrong way with his penalty to net his first ever European goal.
Livorno looked stunned to be two goals behind and resorted to drastic measures to haul themselves back into contention four minutes later.
There seemed little contact when Julien Rodriguez and Lucarelli collided in the Rangers box – TV pictures confirmed the theory – but the forward’s guile clearly fooled Spanish referee Santiago Rodriguez who offered the penalty. Lucarelli this time was able to stay on his feet long enough to convert the kick.
Before Livorno, though, could start to contemplate fashioning an equaliser, Rangers restored their two-goal advantage. It was a sweet moment for Novo after being spurned for the penalty earlier in the match as he converted Boyd’s knock down acrobatically for his first goal of the season.
In a breathless spell, Boyd could have added to the haul but headed over as Rangers bounded up the tunnel at half-time boasting a two-goal advantage as their reward for a first-half performance rich in both craft and graft.
The second half, not surprisingly, lacked the drama of the opening period, a drop in pace that clearly suited Rangers as they sought their first ever win on Italian soil.
There were, however, measures of redemption for Letizi who did well to keep out a header from Tomas Danilevicius then pushed away a fierce drive from Morrone thus partially atoning for his error against Inverness last weekend.
At the other end, Amelia did well to block efforts from Thomas Buffel and then Ferguson with his legs as Rangers looked to land the fourth goal that would surely seal the victory.
Livorno it was though who scored again, Lucarelli stabbing in his second of the night from a matter of yards but Rangers held on to record a famous win.
RANGERS (4-2-3-1): 21 Letizi; 20 Hutton, 19 Svensson, 27 Rodriguez, 26 Smith; 7 Hemdani, 6 Ferguson; 10 Novo (Prso 86), 4 Buffel (Rae 89), 25 Adam; 15 Boyd (Sebo 82)
Subs not used: McGregor, Ponroy, Stanger, N’Diaye
Booked: Ferguson (43), Hutton (75)
LIVORNO (4-4-2): 1 Amelia; 18 Rezaei (Morrone 57), 6 Galante, 14 Kuffour, 26 Pasquale; 29 Prates (Balleri 46), 8 Vidigal, 28 Passoni, 11 Vigiani (Bakayoko 78); 78 Danilevicius, 99 Lucarelli
Subs not used: Manitta, Filippini, Pfertzel, Grandoni
Booked:Vidigal (45), Kuffour (53)