Rangers were forced to grind out a 1-0 win against Livingston as they booked their place in the semi-final of the Betfred Cup at the Tony Macaroni Arena tonight but the result will surely be the most important thing as the Gers look for a first major trophy since 2011.
It only took three minutes for Rangers to take the lead as they made a blistering start to the game and got themselves in front early and settle any nerves about the hosts’ plastic pitch.
Glen Kamara was the man to get the goal when Alfredo Morelos’ cross was only cleared as far as the Finn and his strike from the edge of the area took a big deflection off Nicky Devlin with the keeper already diving the other wat and sailed into the net.
There were two head injuries in quick succession for the Gers with Ryan Jack first to go down before returning to the pitch but Joe Aribo wasn’t quick so lucky when he was on the receiving end of an elbow from Ricky Lamie.
The Nigerian international picked up a nasty head cut and had to be replaced after 20 minutes – with Steven Davis entering the fray.
Clear-cut chances were proving hard to come by for either side but Scott Arfield really should have done better when he was presented with a free shot at goal on the edge of the area.
Morelos’ clever pass sent James Tavernier bombing down the right and the captain’s cross found Arfield in acres of space but the Canadian took a little too long and made it too easy for the Livi keeper with his shot.
Livingston had their best chance of the opening 45 minutes five minutes before the break through Keaghan Jacobs as Livi’s all-time record appearance holder watched his strike go just wide of Allan McGregor’s far post with the Gers keeper sprawling.
Filip Helander had a massive stroke of luck moments later when he looked to bring down Lyndon Dykes as he was through on goal but referee Don Robertson waved play on – with replays suggesting the ref got it wrong.
It was the hosts who started off the second half on the front foot as Rangers looked a bit ropey before the Livi keeper denied Sheyi Ojo twice in the space of a minute to keep the score at 1-0.
Livi started to really find a foothold in the game and Souda was next to try his luck but couldn’t get his strike on target.
Kamara and Arfield thought they had finally carved a way through the Livi defence after some lovely interplay between the pair before the Finn’s cross was cleared.
The Gers started pushing forward again in search of the second goal that would put the tie beyond doubt but a combination of good defending and poor shooting stopped Rangers extending their lead.
Livi began pushing everything forward as they tried desperately to stay in the cup and book a trip to Hampden, leaving gaps open at the back for the Gers to exploit, but Gerrard’s side continued to be wasteful when opportunities presented themself.
It was enough though and Rangers booked a Hampden date in November in the semi-final – although Gerrard didn’t hide his frustrations at full-time as he issued instructions to Helander on the pitch as the players made their way off.
Here’s how Steven Gerrard’s side performed against Livi as they secured a semi-final place:
Allan McGregor – 6
McGregor was a virtual spectator for long spells of the game but continues to burst into life when needed. Another clean sheet for the veteran to add to his list.
James Tavernier – 6
The skipper bombed forward regularly in the early stages as the Gers hunted a second goal but was more subdued for a long spell. Tried to drive others on as the game got scrappy but struggled to really hit top gear himself.
Connor Goldson – 5
Never looked too comfortable as Dykes caused problems for both him and Helander. Picked up a silly booking and will be happy at having escaped with a clean sheet. With Katic and Edmundson kicking their heels on the sidelines, he needs to improve quickly.
Filip Helander – 5
The Swedish defender made his third start in a row but was lucky to avoid a red card just before the break when he brought down Dykes. Looked far from convincing for long spells and really couldn’t seem to get comfortable with the bounce of the ball. Rangers are still to concede in any of the five games Helander has started.
Borna Barisic – 6
Quiet night from the Croatian as he kept things simple down the left. Needed to offer more going forward but a reasonable enough performance as he continues to cement his place at left-back. Shout for a penalty when the defender was brought down.
Ryan Jack – 7
Took a head knock early on but recovered well to put in another impressive 90 minutes. Was every where for Rangers as Livi forced them into a scrap for possession. Such a vital player for Steven Gerrard’s side.
Glen Kamara – 7
Started ahead of Steven Davis and opened the scoring in the fourth minute. Needed to roll his sleeves up a bit and put in a shift in the middle of the park. Replaced by Andy King for the final 20 minutes.
Joe Aribo – 6
Nigerian international only lasted 20 minutes before being forced off with a nasty head wound. Hopefully, it’ll heal up quickly and won’t force him to miss much action at a hectic time for club and country.
Scott Arfield – 7
Returned to the starting XI after Brandon Barker’s injury as he made his 6oth appearance for the Gers. Should have made it 2-0 after 30 minutes. Another who covered a huge amount of ground as the Gers were forced into a midfield battle with Livi.
Sheyi Ojo – 6
Burst into life a couple of times but largely anonymous other than that. Had a couple of really good chances to double the Gers’ lead but couldn’t beat the keeper. Frustrating performance from the on-loan Liverpool man.
Alfredo Morelos – 8
Some really intelligent link-up play as the Gers looked for a second goal. Endless running from the Colombian as he continually looked for way to bring others into the game and find a way through the Livi defence. Deserved a goal for the amount of work he put in.
Substitutes: Steven Davis (7) Replaced Aribo after 20 minutes as his night off was cut short. Worked hard in midfield as Livi looked to make it into a scrap. Andy King (6) Took over from Kamara as the Gers looked to keep things steady for the final 20 minutes.