RANGERS were beaten for the first time in seven matches this afternoon at Kilmarnock in what was the club’s final match of the season.
Falling behind in the first half to a Chris Burke strike, Gers leveled after the break through Alfredo Morelos before Eamonn Brophy’s late penalty won the game for the home side.
For this, Gers’ 60th and last game of a season which began way back on July 12 last year against Macedonian’s Shkupi, Steven Gerrard named five changes to his starting XI.
From the team which was so convincing in defeating Celtic a week ago in the Old Firm derby, out went James Tavernier, Nikola Katic, Scott Arfield, Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe, with their places taken by Borna Barisic, Joe Worrall, Andy Halliday, Daniel Candeais and Alfredo Morelos.
The opening eight minutes saw near-exclusive pressure from Gers, and it was no surprise therefore the opening chance of the game came their way.
On one of the few occasions they had the ball, Kirk Broadfoot dallied on it, and presented it straight to Alfredo Morelos just inside the Killie half.
He tested Jamie MacDonald from a pretty tight angle before Daniel Candieas cracked the rebound off the bar on the half-volley.
Completely against the run of play, however, Kilmarnock took the lead. Youssouf Mulumbu was afforded too much space in the middle of the park to clip a ball over the top of the Gers defence and into the path of Chris Burke who fired low and hard beyond Wes Foderingham from the right of goal.
Rangers were almost level straight away, with Ryan Jack setting up Ryan Kent to dance into the area, only for MacDonald again to save, while Morelos was to have another opportunity, cutting in from the left and finding only the side netting, again from a tight angle.
Eamonn Brophy ended the half with an effort across the face of Foderingham’s goal, with the 35-minutes or-so since the goal and flurry of Gers chances having passed without major incident.
The start of the second half saw Foderingham make a super double save firstly at the feet of Mulumbu before the stopper somehow got up to deny Brophy from putting away the rebound.
Alan Power wasted a great chance, getting himself clear into the area before firing over the bar before boss Gerrard introduced Dapo Mebude for his debut on 63 minutes, making him the fifth Academy player to breakthrough into the first-team this season.
Two minutes later, the equaliser arrived for Gers, and it came from Alfredo Morelos grabbing his 30th goal of the season.
Brilliant graft from Ryan Kent played Ryan Jack in down the left channel of the area, and he chipped the ball up for the incoming Morelos to blast home from 10-yards out high into the roof of the net.
Sub Conor McAleney thought he’d put the home side back in front on 82 minutes, tapping home a Brophy cross at the back post, only to be denied by the offside flag of the linesman.
Wes Foderingham, who had been hurt in an earlier collision, had to come off injured after that, being replaced by Andy Firth for second debut of the afternoon for the visitors.
With two minutes left, Borna Barisic brought down Stephen O’Donnell inside the area, with referee Willie Collum pointing to the penalty spot. Up-stepped Eamonn Brophy to take, and while Firth went the right way, it was too powerful and beyond his reach to put Gers 2-1 behind.
RANGERS: Foderingham (Firth, 83); Flanagan, Goldson, Worrall, Barisic; Kamara, Jack, Halliday (Defoe, 80); Candeias (Mebude, 63), Morelos, Kent.
SUBS: Dorrans, McCrorie, Middleton, Coulibaly.
KILMARNOCK: MacDonald (MacKay, 67), O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Findlay, Taylor, Power, Dicker, Mulumbu (McAleny, 80), McKenzie, Burke (Millar, 80), Brophy.
SUBS NOT USED: Boyd, Tshibola, Waters, Bruce.
REFEREE: Willie Collum