Rangers lost 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock in a very poor display on Saturday. Other weekend results have meant that the battle for second place in the league is now very tight. This was the seventh defeat at home for Rangers this season, and absolutely one of the worst performances among those defeats.
Rangers started the match with Russell Martin partnering Alves in central defence. It’s now been around 8 or 9 different partnerships in that area over the season. Jason Cummings also replaced Morelos up top. For Kilmarnock, they went with a 4-5-1. Mulumbu started in midfield, and Brophy was brought in for McKenzie.
There was a subdued feel to the Ibrox crowd at kick off. The deflation from last weekend was still hanging over the fans, and it seemed that the team felt that as well. Despite trying to get forward and play quickly, it was a poor start. Loose passes and little by way of quality meant the game wasn’t entertaining. Kilmarnock were intent on being hard to break down in the main.
The sort of chances being created summed up the match. On the 5th minute, Jamie Murphy won a free kick around 25 yards out. Goss stepped up, but was unable to find the target. Five minutes later, Greg Docherty ran at the Kilmarnock defence. He showed good strength, but stumbled when trying to play the ball and it was easily saved.
Kilmarnock had been restricted to long shots, and should have been behind on 23 minutes. A corner was cleared, and worked back out to Goss. He played an excellent cross which was met by Martin. From just outside the middle of the six yard box, he somehow headed the ball just wide.
The only other Rangers chance of note fell to Jason Cummings. Candeias found him with a good pass, but under pressure from the defence, the striker could only reach the ball on the stretch. MacDonald was able to keep it out quite comfortably.
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As Rangers struggled to create much and raise the tempo, Kilmarnock threatened a little. A ball flashed across the box was just too far in front of Brophy and Tshibola. Boyd also headed a Brophy cross straight at Foderingham.
Halftime came and ended a largely uneventful first 45 minutes. The fans, bitterly cold and frustrated, hoped for far better in the second half.
It was clear Rangers were looking to move the ball quicker in the second half. Sean Goss, who had struggled somewhat, was replaced by Holt. Murty looked to add more energy and urged the team to raise their levels. It was Kilmarnock, though, who created the early chances.
Jordan Jones made a good run on the left, and cut the ball back to Brophy 15 yards out. The striker was unable to control his shot, and put it well wide. Five minutes later, Kilmarnock would score the goal which won them the match.
Rangers had cleared a Jones free kick, but as they were stepping out the ball came back in. Mulumbu found a yard on the edge of the box, and shot across goal. Foderingham made a good save, but Boyd was at the back post to score the rebound.
Murty sent out Morelos to warm up straight away,and brought him on 7 minutes later. The man replaced was Josh Windass, who just before that had seen the ball deflect off of him and go just wide. Morelos partnered Cummings up front as Rangers chased the game.
However, there were only really two chances of note created by Rangers after this. The first came from a great knock down by Candeias, which just didn’t sit for Morelos and was cleared by Broadfoot. The second was on the 77th minute, and summed up the day Rangers were having. Docherty won a free kick just outside the box with a strong run. Tavernier played a great ball which Martin met powerfully. His header hit the bar, and bounced down off the line to stay out.
As Rangers left themselves exposed defensively, Kilmarnock almost extended their lead. Both Jones and McKenzie missed good chances on the counter attack. They defended their lead well, and came away with the three points.
This was an abject performance by Rangers, especially in an attacking sense. Only 3 shots on target the entire match sums that up. In recent games, even defeats, Rangers have been threatening and creating a lot of chances. This was a game almost inexplicable given recent evidence. When you have a match where things don’t go well, it’s tempting to try and look for positives. There was nothing that could be pointed to as being encouraging in this match.
Kilmarnock didn’t have to be good to win the match, and on the day they deserved it. With the international break coming up, it’s going to feel like a good while before the next chance to put this right. A much better performance, both in terms of quality and workrate, will be needed to get anything away to Motherwell on the 31st.
Foderingham; Tavernier, Martin, Alves, John; Goss (Holt, 45), Docherty; Candeias (Miller, 76), Windass, Murphy, Cummings (Morelos, 61)
SUBS NOT USED: Alnwick, Cardoso, Herrera, Halliday.
MacDonald, O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Dicker, K Boyd (McKenzie, 61), Jones, Taylor, Findlay, Mulumbu (Erwin, 83), Brophy, Tshibola (Power, 61)
SUBS NOT USED: Fasan, Kiltie, S Boyd, Simpson.