RANGERS came from behind to defeat a stubborn Livingston outfit at Ibrox this afternoon in the Scottish Premiership.
Trailing to a Steven Lawless penalty scored just after half-time, strikes from James Tavernier, Alfredo Morelos and Brandon Barker turned the game around to secure the Light Blues a welcome three points.
From the side which played in the Old Firm match before the international break, boss Steven Gerrard made four changes.
Out went Jon Flanagan, Glen Kamara, Ryan Jack and Jermain Defoe, with their places in the XI taken by Andy Halliday, Sheyi Ojo, Ryan Kent – who of course was making his debut as a permanent Gers player – and Alfredo Morelos.
With it being Armed Forces Day at Ibrox, there was an extra-special tinge to the atmosphere, with members of the United Kingdom’s four armed services leading the teams out. Two RAF airmen then abseiled into the stadium from the top of the Sandy Jardine Stand to deliver the match ball to referee Willie Collum to rapturous and appreciative acclaim from the sold-out ground.
The opening 10 minutes were relatively uneventful, with Gers probing hard to find a way through the low-block of Livingston. Then, a superb piece of play really should have handed the home side the lead.
Picking the ball up wide on the right, Kent beat his man and played the ball into Joe Aribo who was stationed on the corner of the six-yard line.
With his back to goal, he was being well-marshalled by Ricki Lamie, but he produced a stunning flick into the path of the incoming Alfredo Morelos, though the Colombian’s first time shot was over the bar, albeit from a pretty tight angle.
Scott Arfield was next to try his luck, with a superb 25-yard effort cannoning off the underside of the bar, before Livi scrambled the ball clear, though Gers quickly attacked again, and a wonderful James Tavernier cross should have been netted by Morelos, but he headed wide when unmarked just shy of the six-yard line.
Another Morelos header – albeit a much harder one given the pressure he was under – was easily gathered by Ross Stewart after Sheyi Ojo dropped the ball onto him again at close-range.
Five minutes before the break, the home side were dealt a huge blow, with Kent having to go off injured and Brandon Barker coming on in his place.
The visitors hadn’t featured in an attacking sense at all in the game, but two minutes into the second half, they were handed the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot.
As Gers tried to clear a free-kick, Scott Arfield brought down Lyndon Dykes inside the area, with referee Colum having no hesitation in awarding the foul.
Steven Lawless’ strike from the penalty spot was superb and into the bottom-right corner, with Allan McGregor going the wrong way
It certainly wouldn’t have been the start to the second half Gerrard would have envisaged when he sent his side back out, but to be fair to them, they responded well with Morelos again coming close after turning Nicky Devlin 20-yards out before firing a stinging effort just wide.
And, on 55 minutes, the equaliser arrived. After Morelos was brought down on the left wing, James Tavernier’s free-kick went all the way through and into the back of the net, seemingly deceiving Stewart on the way.
Chris Erskine should have had Livi back in front as he headed a corner off the crossbar, while Morelos forced Stewart into a smart save at his front post with a wicked effort from almost the byline.
McGregor made a super save from Lyndon Dykes as Gers were again loose at a corner, while Stewart made a great block from another Arfield effort from outside the area.
On 71 minutes, however, the home side took the lead, as Alfredo Morelos grabbed his 11th goal of the season.
Tavernier’s corner was smartly flicked-on by Aribo at the front-post, and coming in on the end of it was Morelos, relieving some of the increasing tension around Ibrox.
Two minutes later, Livingston were reduced to 10 men, with Dykes shown a second yellow card after catching Goldson as the two went up to win the ball in the air.
Gers took full advantage, scoring goal number three on 79 minutes. Sheyi Ojo made a charging, powerful run from midfield before he laid the ball off to his left for Brandon Barker.
Making his first Ibrox appearance, he superbly stepped inside his man and smashed a wonderful effort into the top corner to set the seal on the three points.
There were late opportunities for Ojo and substitute Andy King, but 3-1 is how it finished as Rangers now prepare for the visit of Feyenoord in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Halliday; Davis, Aribo (King, 75), Arfield; Ojo, Morelos (Defoe, 80), Kent (Barker, 41).
SUBS: Foderingham, Helander, Kamara, Barisic.
LIVINGSTON: Stewart, Devlin, Lamie (Pepe, 82), Batley, Jacobs (Souda, 78), Dykes, Lawless, Crawford (Robinson, 69), Erskine, McMillan, Guthrie.
SUBS: Sarkic, Souda, Tiffoney, Savane, Stobbs.
BOOKED: Dykes, Crawford.
SENT OFF: Dykes
REFEREE: Willie Collum