Livingston’s five-game unbeaten run is at an end after a 3-1 defeat by Rangers this afternoon as the West Lothian side were hit by a late sucker punch just as they tried to find an equaliser.
David Martindale made one change to his side from the 1-1 draw with St Mirren in their last outing, Alan Forrest coming into the starting XI for the benched Andy Shinnie.
After three consecutive draws, Livi were looking to extend their unbeaten run to six games while new Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst took charge of the Ibrox side for the first time in domestic competition.
The hosts won the first corner of the game with less than 30 seconds played as they got started on the front foot – although the set-piece was wasted and ended up with a Rangers free-kick being awarded.
The bright start from Livi didn’t go to plan though, Rangers taking the lead after eight minutes when Scott Arfield burst through the home side’s defence to get on the end of James Tavernier’s lofted pass before dinking the ball over Max Stryjek and into the net.
Livi almost came straight back at Rangers, breaking forward quickly before a low effort by Odin Bailey forced a good save from Allan McGregor just seconds after the restart with the game being played at a frantic pace.
As play raged from end-to-end, Rangers doubled their lead on 16 minutes, Joe Aribo scooping the ball in off the crossbar from the edge of the area as Livingston’s openness was punished by a swift move from the visitors.
After the game lost some of its bite, Livingston suddenly found themselves back to within a goal, Forrest doing well to get in behind Goldson and force a save from McGregor before Anderson headed home the rebound and breathed new life into the game with fifteen minutes until the break.
It was a simple but effective move from Martindale’s side as Jack Fitzwater played a long pass over the top of the Rangers defence and Forrest exploited Goldson’s slackness to get the initial effort at goal with Anderson showing great awareness to follow it up and nod beyond McGregor’s despairing dive.
Livingston has been looking dead and buried after the second goal so Anderson’s goal came at a perfect time for them to refind that spark they’d shown in the opening spell and start putting Rangers under more pressure before the break.
Rangers had Allan McGregor to thank for staying in front, Forrest getting on the end of a deflected cross from Bailey and looking as though he’d done enough to divert the ball in before the veteran keeper managed to get a hand on it and flick the ball away.
While Rangers went off with the lead at the break, Livingston will have been happy enough with their response after Anderson’s goal and will have headed up the tunnel feeling they could get something from the second period.
There was a bizarre delay to the start of the second half when Rangers fans began pelting Livingston keeper Max Stryjek with snowballs, leading Livi boss David Martindale to come onto the pitch and plead with the visiting fans to stop.
Once the game finally got underway – ten minutes later than planned – Rangers made the early chances, Hagi having a few attempts at adding to the scoreline but the Livingston defence managed to clear their lines and avoid the threat.
When Livingston did get forward, there looked to be a real threat about the hosts, Anderson causing problems for Bassey and Goldson and putting himself about.
However, much of the work the Livi players had to do was defensive and, other than the odd shaky moment, David Martindale will have been happy with how his side frustrated Rangers and stopped them from extending their lead.
Stryjek was getting busier and busier and had to make an impressive save to deny Aribo a second goal of the afternoon, stretching to push the Nigerian’s strike from the edge of the area over the bar and out for a corner.
Martindale made a double change just before the hour, Andy Shinnie and James Penrice coming on for Anderson and Jack McMillan as the hosts tried to add some more energy in attack.
The one goal deficit had Livingston still hopeful of snatching a point and, although Rangers looked comfortable in possession, there was still a feeling that there would be a chance for Livi to get level.
Christian Montaño came very close to exposing that slackness in the Rangers defence when his fantastic ball left the visitors flat-footed and almost gifted Livi an equaliser.
Just minutes after coming off the bench, Fashion Sakala made it 3-1 Rangers and appeared to kill off any further resistance from Livi, the Zambian heading home from a corner after beating Stryjek to the ball.
While the defeat ends Livingston’s unbeaten run, Martindale and his side won’t lose too much sleep over the performance against Rangers as they quickly turn their attention to facing Aberdeen on Wednesday night.
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Parkes, McMillan, Holt, Omeonga, Montaño, Bailey, Forrest, Anderson.
Substitutes: Maley, Longridge, Penrice, Sibbald, Shinnie, Kabia, Panayiotou.
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Kamara, Arfield, Aribo, Hagi, Kent, Morelos
Subs: McLaughlin, Patterson, Lundstram, Davis, Wright, Sakala, Defoe
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