Rangers lost 1-0 to Livingston to continue their poor away form in the league. The performance at the Tony Macaroni Arena was even more frustrating than the horrendous adverts on the radio for said restaurant chain. This was a more than deserved win for Livingston, who missed a few great chances to add to the scoreline. Rangers had plenty of the ball but created very little of note. The team looked slow, taking more touches than usual on the ball. It had been hoped under Gerrard that the team wouldn’t give this poor a performance again. The management team will now need to get a response from the squad to prove that it’s a freak occurrence. Here is how the game unfolded and some tactical analysis.
Rangers brought in Ejaria, Lafferty and Barisic to replace McCrorie, Kent and Flanagan from the win over St Johnstone. Livingston were able to name the same starting side for the fourth match in a row as they aimed to continue their recent excellent form.
It was clear very early in the game that Livingston were happy to let Rangers have the ball. However, they were the side creating the better chances. A good move in the second minute saw Pittman sent through on goal, but he dragged his shot wide as McGregor closed him down. Rangers had a half-chance from a corner a few minutes later, but Goldson failed to make decent contact with the header.
On the 11th minute, Livingston missed a great chance to take the lead. A free-kick from deep saw Lafferty drop and play a number of players onside. The ball was nodded to the back post, and Lithgow somehow put it wide as he stretched to make contact.
For a short spell, it looked like Rangers were settling into the match. A great pass by Arfield sent Barisic clear, and his cutback was behind the strikers and cleared. Ejaria was close to playing a great ball to Tavernier over the defence, but the ball never quite bounced through as required. On the half hour, a deep free kick from Tavernier looked set to be met by Lafferty but was flicked away by Gallagher.
Only four minutes after that, Livingston scored. They had been struggling to get forward but won a free kick just inside the Rangers half. The ball wasn’t cleared, and poor play by Barisic and Arfield allowed an easy cross to come in from the right. Menga found space in the box and took a touch before slotting the ball under McGregor.
Rangers had a chance to equalise a few minutes later, but Ejaria saw a header go over the bar from a great Barisic cross. Despite having a lot of possession, Rangers never really created another chance in the half and went in at half-time behind for the first time in a league match under Gerrard.
Rangers made a change at half-time with Kent replacing Coulibaly. He almost made a very quick impact as he ran at the Livingston defence and played through Morelos. The striker saw his shot blocked by the on-rushing Kelly. The winger also found some space on the edge of the box for a shot, but his effort was hit straight at the keeper.
Livingston were struggling to get on the ball, but the flow of the game was disrupted by an incident involving the assistant referee. It looked like he was hit by a coin thrown from the crowd and had to get some quick treatment to the back of his head. It was a moment of stupidity from a fan, and also seemed to change the way the game was going.
Livingston created a couple of chances in quick succession. Pittman was sent through and ran in at goal from 40 yards. McGregor did well to come out and block the shot to keep Rangers in the game. From the corner, Lithgow tried something akin to the Giroud scorpion kick and saw the ball go just wide.
Neither side was creating anything clear cut around the 70 to 80-minute mark. It was Livingston again who should have scored on 82 minutes as Lithgow had a header go just wide. It seemed that Rangers could only make space out wide, and every cross was poor or easily dealt with by Kelly. A couple of penalty claims which didn’t look convincing aside, Rangers ended the match with a whimper.
There are no doubts Rangers are a better team under Gerrard than they’ve been for a few seasons. On Sunday, they played like the sides Warburton, Caixinha and Murty worked with. The tempo was slow, the decisions poor and the defending looked panicked. With the way the season had started, the disappointment of this was heightened further. Gerrard changed the shape of the team, as he’s done in away matches before, and it didn’t work again. Upcoming matches against Rapid Vienna and Hearts will test the side, and they’ll need to show a very big reaction to this abject display.
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Worrall, Barisic; Coulibaly (Kent, 45), Arfield; Candeias, Morelos, Ejaria; Lafferty (Middleton, 66).
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Katic, Halliday, McCrorie, Grezda.
Kelly, Lamie, Lithgow, Byrne, Jacobs, Pittman, Lawless (Burns, 63), Robinson (Sibbald, 90), Halkett, Gallagher, Menga (Lawson, 79).
SUBS NOT USED: Stewart, McMillan, Cadden, Hamilton.