Rangers returned to action after the international break with a 3-1 win over Livingston at Ibrox – but there will be real concern over Ryan Kent after he was injured just before half time.
The Gers made four changes to the side that lost against Celtic before the international break with Jon Flanagan, Ryan Jack, Glen Kamara and Jermain Defoe being replaced by Andy Halliday, Sheyi Ojo, the returning Kent and Alfredo Morelos.
Morelos had the first real chance to open the scoring after the Gers had dominated much of the early play but couldn’t get his strike on target.
Dogged play by Kent down the left saw the £7million winger pick out Joe Aribo in the area, with the Nigerian international showing fantastic feet to slip Morelos in but he couldn’t keep his shot down and fired over the bar.
Scott Arfield was next to try his luck when his shot from distance crashed off the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line before the Livi defence could clear.
Rangers kept the pressure up and they have nearly gifted an opening when a pass-back to keeper Ross Stewart was too short and Sheyi Ojo nipped in to steal it but couldn’t get his angles right after taking a heavy touch.
Livi’s defending was managing to frustrate Rangers at times but too often the Gers had to blame their final ball for moves breaking down as they continued pushing for the opener before the break.
There was a big blow for the Gers after 40 minutes when Scott Arfield tried to send Kent in behind the Livi defence only for the winger to pull up with an apparent hamstring injury.
That was the end of Kent’s involvement as he cut a frustrated figure making his way from the pitch – although he didn’t seem to be limping so hopefully it isn’t too bad.
The second half got off to a nightmare start for Rangers as Willie Collum pointed to the penalty spot after a lazy challenge by Scott Arfield only seconds after the restart – which Steven Lawless stepped up to fire home and give Livingston a lead they really didn’t deserve.
The goal didn’t take the wind out of Rangers’ sails as they continued to flood forward and Morelos had another couple of half-chances to draw the Gers level without ever really testing the keeper.
It only took nine minutes for the Gers to get the goal as Connor Goldson and Joe Aribo both claimed faint touches on James Tavernier’s free-kick as it bounced through the penalty area and into the net.
Tavernier really should have made it two when the ball somehow trickled through to him and, rather than putting his laces through the ball, he took a touch and gave the defenders a chance to close him down and clear.
📸 The captain's free-kick to get us back in the match. pic.twitter.com/TxTT7E0cW4
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) September 14, 2019
Any chances Livingston had of bringing themselves back into the game looked dead and buried shortly after Morelos’ goal when Dykes was sent off after catching Connor Goldson with an elbow.
Here’s how we rated Rangers performance against Livingston at Ibrox:
Allan McGregor – 6
Virtual passenger for long spells and will be really disappointed to have conceded given how few chances Livi had. Impressive save in the second half and that was about the sum of McGregor’s entire afternoon.
James Tavernier – 8
The captain tried to get forward regularly and looks to be building a better understanding with Ojo. Free-kick goal drew Rangers level as he grabbed his first goal of the season before his corner was headed home by Morelos to make it 2-1.
Connor Goldson – 6
Barely tested defensively in the opening 45 but needed to be at his best after the break as Livi tried to create something. Looked a bit shaky at times as the visitors tried to get forward but held firm.
Niko Katic – 6
One or two dodgy moments but solid enough performance from the Croatian. Seems as though he’ll put his head into anything. His distribution looks to be improving as he tried spraying balls forward at times.
Andy Halliday – 6
A surprise starter ahead of Borna Barisic who worked hard to close Livingston’s forwards down and had a fantastic tackle early on. Tried to get forward and support Kent and Barker but nothing really came off for him in attack.
Steven Davis – 8
Everything Rangers were doing going forward went through Davis for long spells as the Northern Irishman dictated the tempo as usual. Really helped push the Gers on after falling behind and his leadership often goes understated as he’s not ranting and raving at team-mates.
Joe Aribo – 6
Some really classy touches from the newly-minted Nigerian cap but faded in and out of the game a little too often. Really needs to be able to consistently control games – but is continuing to get better and better. Solid performance and will probably try to claim the equaliser. Replaced by Andy King with 15 minutes to go.
Scott Arfield – 6
Industrious afternoon for Arfield as he was moved back into central midfield. Nowhere near his usual effective self going forward and gave away a silly penalty just after the break but always making angles for passes and closing down runners. Had a couple of chances to score but was denied by the crossbar then a superb save.
Sheyi Ojo – 6
A bit like Aribo in that he showed his ability in flashes but really doesn’t do it enough consistently enough. Can be a little too predictable at times and struggled to find space in the congested areas as Livi sat deep when Rangers had the ball.
Ryan Kent – 7
Started really brightly and looked desperate to make things happen – although it was clear he’s just a little bit short of match fitness. Replaced after 40 minutes as he went off after an apparent hamstring injury.
Alfredo Morelos – 8
Led the line really well and got his goal to fire the Gers into the lead. Caused all sorts of problems for the Livingston defence and really could have had two or three more goals on another day. Replaced by Defoe with ten minutes left.
Substitutes: Brandon Barker: Replaced Ryan Kent after 40 minutes and got himself on the scoresheet. Andy King: Came on for the final 15 minutes to replace Joe Aribo. Jermain Defoe: Took over from Morelos late on.