RANGERS were beaten by Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership at Rugby Park this evening.
After going ahead through a superb Scott Arfield strike in the first-half, goals in the final 13 minutes from Stephen O’Donnell and Eammon Brophy secured the three points for the home side.
From the side which defeated Hamilton in the Scottish Cup on Saturday, boss Steven Gerrard made three changes.
Out went George Edmundson, Borna Barisic and Glen Kamara, with their places in the XI taken by Nikola Katic, Andy Halliday and the returning Ryan Jack.
An Alfredo Morelos shot from 25-yards at the end of a lovely, one-touch passing move which slipped just wide was the opening chance of the game on seven minutes.
Morelos then headed a deep Tavernier cross goalwards from 15-yards out, but such was the distance from goal, goalkeeper Jan Koprivec had an easy catch to deny the Colombian.
More one-touch passing from Andy Halliday into Ianis Hagi and then onto Joe Aribo ended with the Nigerian midfielder getting a shot away in the box to the left of goal, but it slipped just wide.
It was the typical, tight game Rangers have become accustomed to here at Rugby Park, but the deadlock was broken on 32 minutes as Scott Arfield followed up Saturday’s howitzer strike at Hamilton with another rocket.
Ryan Kent took a short corner to Andy Halliday, and he picked out Arfield lurking 25-yards from goal. He shifted the ball onto his right foot and cut across the ball when striking it to put a stunning swerve on it and send it careering into the top corner with Koprivec left rooted to the spot.
Arfield then almost topped the lot with a volley from distance which only just cleared the left post, while Morelos scooped an effort from the edge of the area just over the bar.
Into the second half, and a lightning counter attack which saw Morelos play a super ball for Ryan Kent to run onto through the middle ended when Alan Power got back to deny him – with both Kent and the Gers supporters behind the goal reckoning the Gers winger was fouled on the edge of the box.
Morelos then tested Koprivic from the edge of the area, with the keeper diving across goal to claim his drive, while an audacious shot from the right wing when he was given something to chase by James Tavernier looped up into the air and came back off the top of the bar with Koprivec stranded.
Killie certainly had more territorial possession in the second half, but barring a series of corners which Rangers dealt with pretty easily, they weren’t ever really a threat to Allan McGregor’s goal.
Gers came close again with Aribo seeing a goalbound shot from close-range blocked following good work from Hagi, but on 77 minutes, Killie equalised.
Niko Hamalainen’s attempted shot turned into a cross which dropped for Stephen O’Donnell to sweep home at the back-post from close range.
It was the first real opening the home side had in the match, and they made Gers pay – though the Light Blues responded well and should have re-taken the lead on 82 minutes.
James Tavernier delivered one of those stunning balls from the right onto the head of Morelos who was seven-yards out, but he headed up and over the bar under no pressure.
Morelos then did have the ball in the net from a header on the end of an Andy Halliday cross, but he was penalised for fouling Stuart Findlay as he attacked it.
Tavernier then blasted over on the angle just inside the box as an Arfield ball reached him, but in the final minute of normal time, Kilmarnock grabbed the lead.
A long ball forward wasn’t dealt with, and running onto it was Eammon Brophy to win the game for the home side.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Halliday; Jack, Arfield, Aribo (Kamberi, 85); Hagi (Stewart, 82), Kent, Morelos.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Edmundson, Flanagan, Davis, Jones.
KILMARNOCK: Koprivec, O’Donnell, Findlay, Del Fabro, Hamalainen, Power, Dicker, McKenzie, Burke (Millen, 88), Kabamba, Brophy (Johnson, 90).
SUBS NOT USED: Lyle, Hendrie, Kiltie, Taylor, Connell.
REFEREE: John Beaton