RANGERS suffered their second Scottish Premiership loss of the season this afternoon, going down to newly-promoted Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
After looking to have found top form in recent weeks, the Light Blues struggled to create much against Gary Holt’s men, with Dolly Menga’s first half goal the difference between the sides.
From the XI which comfortably defeated Ayr United in the Betfred Cup in midweek, manager Steven Gerrard made no less than eight alterations to his team.
On the new artificial surface at Almondvale, the Light Blues looked unsure of their footing in the opening minutes, and as Livingston worked the ball to wide on the right, Scott Pittman managed to wriggle his way into the area before firing wide of Allan McGregor’s post.
The home side then passed up another terrific opportunity. A deep free-kick from Shaun Byrne was won in the air by former Gers youngster Craig Halkett. He nodded the ball down to the back post where Alan Lithgow was sliding in, but fortunately for the visitors, his touch took the ball wide of the target.
From there, however, Gers began to take control. Alfredo Morelos had a good shout for a penalty turned down after he was brought down in the box, while James Tavernier wasn’t quite able to bring the ball under control after being played-in by Daniel Candeias.
Lassana Coulibaly headed a superb Borna Barisic cross straight at another former Ger – Liam Kelly – in the Livi goal before Ovie Ejaria forced him into another save with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
But then, against the run of play, Livingston took the lead on 33 minutes. Gers were slow to react in defence as Scott Robinson burrowed a way through down the left before he cut the ball back for Dolly Menga to fire into the back of the net.
The visitors’ response to going behind was decent – Ejaria heading a Barisic cross over as Kelly came to punch.
The half-time interval saw Gerrard replace Lassana Coulibaly with Ryan Kent, and Kent almost had an immediate impact, playing in Morelos who was denied by Kelly at his near post.
But from there, Gers never really quite looked themselves. Having netted 13 goals in their last three games with opportunities to add to that tally even more, they were struggling to create anything at all of note.
Livi could even have gone two ahead on 70 minutes, with Allan McGregor having to come off his lie sharply to deny Scott Pittman who was baring down on him.
Kent fired straight at Kelly while Morelos couldn’t divert a Tavernier free-kick on target after getting something on it at the front post and then Ejaria headed a corner kick over the bar.
Injury time saw Morelos flash a ball across the face of goal with no takers as Gers threatened an equaliser, but this was a poor day for the Light Blues.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Barisic; Coulibaly (Kent, 45), Arfield; Candeias, Morelos, Ejaria; Lafferty (Middleton, 66).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Katic, Halliday, McCrorie, Grezda.
LIVINGSTON: Kelly, Lamie, Lithgow, Byrne, Jacobs, Pittman, Lawless (Burns, 63), Robinson (Sibbald, 90), Halkett, Gallagher, Menga (Lawson, 79).
SUBS NOT USED: Stewart, McMillan, Cadden, Hamilton.
REFEREE: Craig Thomson