SCOTT Arfield once again proved to be the difference for Rangers as he scored his fourth goal in a week to grab a crucial league win on a tricky afternoon. The Canadian’s second-half strike was the only goal of a stuffy game.
Rangers took to the field 24 hours later than planned after Storm Dennis wreaked havoc with waterlogged pitches and high winds across the UK. After Saturday’s fixture was called off in a lunchtime pitch inspection the Ibrox surface passed for a three o’clock Sunday start.
The hastily rearranged fixture saw Steven Gerrard name one change from the Gers midweek defeat to Kilmarnock. Steven Davis replaced Joe Aribo in the midfield three as Rangers looked for a vital three points in the Premiership.
The weather was still playing its part once the game eventually got underway, with the swirling winds causing issues for both sides’ pass selection. It meant that neither team mustered anything of real value inside the opening exchanges. The first offering came when Ianis Hagi dragged a low shot wide from outside the box in the 15th minute.
Rangers countered quickly three minutes later to mount their first real attack with intent. Hagi’s pressing on the right forced Livi to give up possession and Arfield picked out Ryan Kent, setting off down the left channel, with a lovely threaded ball. The winger cut inside and curled his shot just wide.
Andy Halliday would be the unlikely source of Rangers best chance of the half with 10 minutes to go until the break. It came from some positive play from the Gers when Steven Davis drove into space on the right. The Northern Irishman played a quick one-two with Alfredo Morelos on the edge of the box, managing to untangle the ball from his feet to prod into Halliday’s path. From close range the stand-in left-back looked nailed on to make it 1-0 but somehow Ryan Schofield reacted quickly and made a superb save, tipping the ball onto his crossbar.
Chances were hard to come by but in the 41st minute Hagi showed he could pull the Livi defence apart when he chose to run at them. The Romanian chose to lay it off to his right to Davis, who was matching his run but the midfielder shot straight at Schofield at his near post.
Arguably the visitors should have been down to ten men at the break. Jon Guthrie was lucky to only receive a yellow card when he lunged in, studs up, on the ankle of Connor Goldson over by the corner flag. The centre-half recovered quickly and played on.
The second-half started in a similar fashion to the first, with little industry. Morelos had a brilliant opportunity to play in Kent on 53 minutes when the pair raced back two-on-two. All the Colombian had to do was square the ball for a sure tap in but he elected to shoot and it cannoned into Copland Road end of Ibrox. Kent got his chance moments later but saw a snapshot saved by the in-form Schofield.
Allan McGregor would make a pivotal save from Aymen Souda when the Tunisian saw a corner fall to him on 56 minutes. The Gers number one got a palm to it as he shot from a few yards out, keeping his side in the game.
Arfield had three in two and his eye for goal was in again with just over half an hour to play. The pass came from Hagi, stretching to win the ball and turn into the Canada captain’s path. The Livi defence opened up and allowed him room to rattle a fine strike into the back of their net. The salute that followed was becoming a familiar sight in February.
In the space of the next ten minutes Halliday returned to the field with his head bandaged after hurtling over the advertising hoardings whilst winning a corner; Ryan Jack nearly snuck a curling shot into the top corner and then Morelos was adjudged to be offside after he lashed a strike across goal and beyond Schofield – it was a tight call.
With Rangers unable to add to their single goal they left themselves vulnerable and nearly paid with eight minutes to play. Lyndon Dykes has caused issues for defences across the Premiership this season and suddenly found himself in space on the edge of the box, with enough time to lash a half volley past McGregor. The Gers keeper could only turn and watch as it bounced back off the inside of the upright and was cleared to safety.
Flo Kamberi had certainly made a difference since his introduction and he very nearly got the rewards for his industry but was punished by another tight offside call a few minutes from time. He’d cut in off the left to strike right-footed beyond the unmoved Schofield.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Halliday, Arfield, Davis, Jack, Hagi (Stewart 83’), Morelos (Aribo 88’), Kent (Kamberi 55’).
Subs not used: Foderingham, Flanagan, Kamara, Jones.
Goals: Arfield 56’