Livingston 0-3 Rangers: Steven Gerrard’s men remain on course to break 100 points barrier and remain unbeaten throughout league season after James Tavernier, Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi seal simple victory
- Rangers remain on course to go the whole league season unbeaten in Scotland
- James Tavernier opened the scoring from the spot at the Toni Macaroni Stadium
- Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi both netted after the break to make sure of the points
It began with a guard of honour and turned into a procession.
Displaying a sense of purpose not always associated with teams who have long since crossed the winning post in a title race, Rangers moved within one game of going the entire league season unbeaten with remarkable ease.
Replicate this attitude when the Premiership trophy is presented after the game with Aberdeen on Saturday and the club shop can begin printing the invincible logos on the souvenir tee-shirts. Bluntly, it’s difficult to see any other outcome.
Not since March 4 last year have Steven Gerrard’s men lost a league match. It could be some time before Hamilton Accies’ incredible success that night is trumped.
James Tavernier grabs the opening goal of the game from the spot against Livingston
The Ibrox side were never in danger of falling at the penultimate hurdle here from the moment James Tavernier stroked home his 19th goal of the season shortly before the break.
Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi wrapped up a routine win in the second period to ensure Gerrard’s men move onto the 99-point mark.
They’ve done so in jaw-dropping fashion – scoring 88 goals and conceding just 13. Provided they don’t concede twice at the weekend, that will constitute a new British record.
Amid 31 wins and six draws, some 25 clean sheets have been claimed along the way. The standards that have been set this season are almost impossibly high.
‘We had to earn the right first and foremost to make it straight forward,’ Gerrard said. “Obviously our quality has come through at the end.
“I thought goal number two and three were outstanding in terms of team goals.
“The build-up play to win the penalty was outstanding as well, so our quality was there for everyone to see.
The full-back celebratess giving his side the lead at the Toni Macaroni Stadium on Wednesday
“But Davie (Martindale) and his players don’t just give you that. They come out full or energy, they are physical and the pitch is a bit of a leveller. “This is a place where first you’ve got to show steel and earn the right. We did that and when our moment has come, we were clinical.’
Gerrard was sent off on his last visit here but this time the fireworks were only to be found in the sky during an impressive display in the second half.
A pocket of 100 or so Rangers supporters gathered on the embankment at one corner of the stadium and they witnessed a performance in keeping with most of what had gone before this season.
With Borna Barisic injured, Joe Aribo filled in at left back, while Jon McLaughlin started in goal ahead of Allan McGregor. There was nothing unusual about the manner in which Gerrard’s side started the contest, though.
Sharp in both thought and action, they pinned Livingston in with the intelligent runs from deep of Kent and Kemar Roofe occupying the men in yellow.
It was Aribo’s advanced positioning that led to Rangers’ first sight of goal. A smart ball round the corner allowed Alfredo Morelos to drop a cross into Hagi’s path. The Romanian wasn’t alert enough to make it count.
It took Martindale’s side 21 minutes to threaten McLaughlin’s goal. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ marauding run from the halfway line left Jack Simpson on the seat of his pants and Josh Mullin bearing down on goal. McLaughlin blocked the shot before Connor Goldson turned the ball away for a corner.
Simpson had a difficult few minutes. He was booked for tugging Emmanuel-Thomas’ jersey although Mullin’s weak free-kick from a promising position on the edge of the box rather let the defender off the hook.
Ryan Kent grabbed a second goal for the visitors just after the break to strengthen their lead
The forward atoned with a sweetly-taken free-kick which picked out Jon Guthrie. Although on target, the defender’s cushioned volley was meat and drink for the keeper.
Morelos had his name taken for cynically taking out Mullin on the counter-attack with Scott Pittman following suit for a wild one on Glen Kamara.
Hagi marked his growing influence with an ambitious strike from 25-yards.
Just at Livi thought about regrouping in the dressing room, a momentary lapse in concentration undid all their good work.
It was, though, an excellent move from Rangers’ perspective. Glen Kamara drilled a low ball into Roofe. With his back to goal, the Englishman produced a sumptuous flick.
Max Stryjek’s hesitation in leaving his line was costly. Hagi beat him to the ball and drew the foul. A penalty and a booking.
Stryjek guessed correctly but Tavernier’s penalty had pace and accuracy.
There was no respite for the West Lothian side when hostilities resumed.
Morelos should have put the game beyond reach when Jack Fitzwater’s clearance landed on his toe but the Colombian was leaning back as he let fly. It mattered little.
Tavernier’s clipped forward pass eliminated the entire Livi back-four with Kent the recipient. The winger played the ball wide to Morelos then dropped a shoulder and buried the return ball.
It now only seemed a question of how many. Kamara’s 25 yarder took a slight deflection but Stryjek was always behind it. The keeper also showed a strong hand to turn Aribo’s angled drive round the post.
In keeping with their approach this season, Martindale’s men weren’t quite done yet. Pittman struck the bar from 20 yards before substitute Jaze Kabia somehow hit the outside of the post with the goal gaping.
A large group of fans gathered on the hill outside the ground to watch the game in Livingston
This was to be an evening to forget for Kabia. Another gamble into the box brought up another gilt-edged opportunity. Yet again, McLaughlin wasn’t troubled by his wayward strike.
Hagi soon showed him how it was done. Racing intelligently onto Cedric Itten’s cross with seven minutes of the contest remaining, the midfielder completed the scoring from six-yards and brought Gerrard’s side within one game of a truly remarkable feat.
Livi struggled to get a foothold in the contest but they at least have a win-or-bust trip to St Johnstone on Saturday which might yet see them claim fifth place and possibly European football.
Asked if he’d use the League Cup Final defeat to the Perth men as motivation, Martindale smiled: ‘It’s not payback for the cup final .. you want to win every game. But it will be part of my team talk…’
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