Scottish Premiership
LivingstonLivingston1RangersRangers3

Livingston 1-3 Rangers: Champions hold off fightback to stretch lead

By Thomas DuncanBBC Scotland
Joe Aribo sweeps in Rangers' second goal after just 16 minutes
Joe Aribo swept in Rangers' second goal after just 16 minutes

Rangers should have ended Livingston's challenge well before the 78th minute, says manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, as the Scottish Premiership leaders won his first league game in charge.

Scott Arfield and Joe Aribo scored fine goals in the first 16 minutes to put the visitors firmly in command.

Bruce Anderson responded for Livingston before the break but Fashion Sakala eventually ended their challenge.

"We had a great start in the first 20, 25 minutes," Van Bronckhorst said.

"I think after that we lost a little bit of the intention of playing and also the speed of play. We were a bit sloppy and of course the 2-1 made it a real game. I think second half we controlled more, we didn't give any chances away.

"If you control so much of the game you need to make sure you finish the game as early as possible and we kept Livingston too long in the game."

Van Bronckhorst - whose side are four points clear of Celtic - got his first win with his first match in charge on Thursday night against Sparta Prague and made just one change as Arfield replaced Steven Davis in midfield.

The Canada international's familiar trait of running in behind from deep opened up the chance for the first goal as he ghosted in between two of Livingston's three centre-backs to collect James Tavernier's clever pass and scoop the ball over Max Stryjek into the net.

Livingston were opened up again soon after as Ryan Kent kept his width on the left flank as the ball went to the right-hand side, and he was able to receive a diagonal switch before feeding Morelos, who teed up Aribo to sweep a brilliant finish off the under side of the bar and in.

Livingston looked rattled but were able to take advantage of Rangers' ongoing slackness at the back this term. Jack Fitzwater arrowed a long ball in behind Connor Goldson for Alan Forrest, and Anderson pounced to head home when his team-mate's shot was saved.

The response drained the tempo from Rangers' game and goalkeeper Allan McGregor had to stretch to push Forrest's back-post shot over the bar before the break as Borna Barisic stood off and allowed Bailey's cross to arrive.

Despite a near 10-minute delay to the second half after Rangers fans threw snowballs on to the pitch, both teams initially upped the pace after the break and Stryjek had to deny Hagi, Kent, and Aribo.

However, Livingston managed to stay in the fight, up until the final 12 minutes when substitute Sakala capitalised to head in Rangers' third after Stryjek misjudged Tavernier's corner.

Man of the match - Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent
Kent was influential as he stayed wide, and looks sharp after his return from injury. Tavernier grabbed another two assists to underline his consistency

What did we learn?

Van Bronckhorst has picked up from Steven Gerrard without a hitch so far, but there were a few of the same hints of change from Thursday. The use of Kent and Hagi as more traditional wingers rather than the usual number 10s was evident again in the first period, and the former's width was crucial to the second goal as switches of play proved effective.

Hagi picked up clever positions between Livingston's centre-backs and left-wing back and looks like he will get plenty of time to build consistent form under the new manager. Bringing Nathan Patterson on to replace him again suggests the Scotland full-back may be in for more game time, too.

Defence is still an issue for Rangers, though, and they have now conceded more goals in their first 14 league games than they did in the whole of last season. Even if last term was a freakish effort, solidity remains a problem.

Livingston's goal came from a diagonal ball into the space between Goldson and the advanced Tavernier, and the former was erratic in possession on a few occasions in the first half. Barisic seems to stay back more often to help, though the Croatian was more influential in attack after the break.

As for Livingston, David Martindale was marking a year in charge and he can be relatively pleased with his side's efforts, bar a disjointed first 20 minutes when they fell two goals behind.

Stephane Omeonga battled well in midfield, Anderson put in a great shift up front and they hung in there for long spells. However, the manager would have wanted to see more from his team in attack as they faded after a fast start to the second half.

Kent and Hagi's heat map against Ross County (left) in Steven Gerrard's last game and Livingston (right) show the difference in width
Kent and Hagi's heat map against Ross County (left) in Steven Gerrard's last game and Livingston (right) show the difference in width

What they said

Livingston manager David Martindale: "It is fair to say that Rangers deserved the three points. But we feel we could have taken something from the game because of the first 60-70 minutes.

"We probably created the better chances on the break, whereas Rangers kept the better of the possession. It's frustrating to concede from the set-piece."

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst on Sky Sports: "We controlled the game and had a great start. We knew the chances would come if we ran into the spaces. It was a professional game from our point of view.

"We were a but sloppy at times and a bit slow. You have to make sure you have to finish the game. The header from Sakala was relief when it came at the time that it did."

What's next?

Both sides begin a busy December fixture schedule with away trips in the Premiership. Rangers face their League Cup conquerors Hibernian on Wednesday (19:45 GMT), while Livingston play Aberdeen at the same time.

Player of the match

McGregorAllan McGregor

with an average of 8.79

Livingston

  1. Squad number32Player nameStryjek
    Average rating

    5.00

  2. Squad number18Player nameHolt
    Average rating

    4.77

  3. Squad number11Player nameCristian Montaño
    Average rating

    4.32

  4. Squad number33Player nameOmeonga
    Average rating

    4.26

  5. Squad number14Player nameBailey
    Average rating

    4.17

  6. Squad number22Player nameShinnie
    Average rating

    3.83

  7. Squad number2Player nameDevlin
    Average rating

    3.79

  8. Squad number9Player nameAnderson
    Average rating

    3.71

  9. Squad number37Player nameKabia
    Average rating

    3.47

  10. Squad number21Player nameMcMillan
    Average rating

    3.47

  11. Squad number4Player nameParkes
    Average rating

    3.47

  12. Squad number5Player nameFitzwater
    Average rating

    3.41

  13. Squad number29Player namePenrice
    Average rating

    3.31

  14. Squad number17Player nameForrest
    Average rating

    3.12

Rangers

  1. Squad number1Player nameMcGregor
    Average rating

    8.79

  2. Squad number37Player nameArfield
    Average rating

    8.26

  3. Squad number17Player nameAribo
    Average rating

    8.21

  4. Squad number30Player nameSakala
    Average rating

    8.12

  5. Squad number7Player nameHagi
    Average rating

    7.91

  6. Squad number14Player nameKent
    Average rating

    7.82

  7. Squad number16Player namePatterson
    Average rating

    7.48

  8. Squad number18Player nameKamara
    Average rating

    7.43

  9. Squad number3Player nameBassey
    Average rating

    7.40

  10. Squad number2Player nameTavernier
    Average rating

    7.37

  11. Squad number31Player nameBarisic
    Average rating

    7.30

  12. Squad number20Player nameMorelos
    Average rating

    7.11

  13. Squad number9Player nameDefoe
    Average rating

    6.69

  14. Squad number6Player nameGoldson
    Average rating

    6.28

Line-ups

Livingston

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 32Stryjek
  • 2DevlinBooked at 45mins
  • 5Fitzwater
  • 4Parkes
  • 21McMillanSubstituted forPenriceat 59'minutes
  • 18Holt
  • 33OmeongaBooked at 69mins
  • 17ForrestBooked at 31mins
  • 14BaileySubstituted forKabiaat 80'minutes
  • 11Montaño
  • 9AndersonSubstituted forShinnieat 59'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Longridge
  • 10Sibbald
  • 15Panayiotou
  • 22Shinnie
  • 29Penrice
  • 36Maley
  • 37Kabia

Rangers

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1McGregor
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 3Bassey
  • 31Barisic
  • 18Kamara
  • 17Aribo
  • 7HagiSubstituted forPattersonat 73'minutes
  • 37ArfieldBooked at 9mins
  • 14KentSubstituted forSakalaat 73'minutes
  • 20MorelosSubstituted forDefoeat 90+2'minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Lundstram
  • 9Defoe
  • 10Davis
  • 16Patterson
  • 23Wright
  • 30Sakala
  • 33McLaughlin
Referee:
David Munro
Attendance:
8,825

Match Stats

Home TeamLivingstonAway TeamRangers
Possession
Home28%
Away72%
Shots
Home7
Away19
Shots on Target
Home4
Away8
Corners
Home3
Away7
Fouls
Home14
Away12

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Livingston 1, Rangers 3.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Livingston 1, Rangers 3.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Glen Kamara (Rangers).

  4. Post update

    Jason Holt (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Post update

    Attempt saved. Jermain Defoe (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Scott Arfield.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Nathan Patterson (Rangers).

  7. Post update

    Andrew Shinnie (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Substitution

    Substitution, Rangers. Jermain Defoe replaces Alfredo Morelos.

  9. Post update

    Attempt saved. Scott Arfield (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Alfredo Morelos.

  10. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Jason Holt (Livingston) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  11. Post update

    Foul by James Tavernier (Rangers).

  12. Post update

    Cristian Montaño (Livingston) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  13. Post update

    Joe Aribo (Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  14. Post update

    Foul by Stephane Omeonga (Livingston).

  15. Post update

    Offside, Livingston. Jack Fitzwater tries a through ball, but Jaze Kabia is caught offside.

  16. Post update

    Attempt saved. Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Glen Kamara.

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, Livingston. Jaze Kabia replaces Odin Bailey.

  18. Goal!

    Goal! Livingston 1, Rangers 3. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) header from very close range to the high centre of the goal. Assisted by James Tavernier with a cross following a corner.

  19. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Tom Parkes.

  20. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Fashion Sakala (Rangers) left footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Alfredo Morelos.

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Rangers14103132141833
2Celtic1492332102229
3Hearts1576225141127
4Dundee Utd157441514125
5Motherwell156361924-521
6Hibernian135351717018
7St Mirren153751624-816
8Aberdeen154381621-515
9St Johnstone14356914-514
10Livingston143471220-813
11Dundee143471427-1313
12Ross County142481927-810
View full Scottish Premiership table

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