Rangers 1-0 Livingston: Scott Arfield strike enough for narrow win

By PA Sport

Highlights from the Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Livingston at Ibrox

Rangers kept their Ladbrokes Premiership title hopes alive with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Livingston at Ibrox.

Celtic's 2-1 win at Aberdeen earlier in the day had put pressure on Steven Gerrard's side in a fixture that had been postponed on Saturday due to a waterlogged pitch.

Livi's 20-year-old goalkeeper Ryan Schofield, on loan from Huddersfield, made three saves in a first half affected by the swirling wind before Rangers midfielder Scott Arfield drove through his legs in the 58th minute for the game's only goal.

Celtic remain 10 points ahead at the top having played a game more than their Old Firm rivals as both clubs turn their attention to respective Europa League last-32 ties this week, with the Hoops going to Copenhagen and Rangers hosting Braga, but domestic advantage still lies solidly with the champions.

The Light Blues' dismal 2-1 midweek defeat at Kilmarnock had dealt a blow to their title aspirations but Gerrard made only one change on Sunday, with veteran midfielder Steven Davis in for Joe Aribo.

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Livingston boss Gary Holt brought in keeper Schofield for his first league game as Rangers loanee Robby McCrorie was unable to play against his parent club.

Also starting were Ricki Lamie, Keaghan Jacobs, Steve Lawson, Robbie Crawford and Aymen Souda, who had an early angled drive which missed the target but was kept in by the strong wind.

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The Livi defence repelled several crosses into the box and in the 17th minute Schofield denied home striker Alfredo Morelos inside the six-yard box.

Moments later, Light Blues attacker Ryan Kent curled a shot just past the far post after being sent clear by Arfield in a swift counter-attack, before defender Nikola Katic headed over from 12 yards after an attempted clearance looped into the air.

Image: Alfredo Morelos could not find the back of the net

The home side battled the wind as much as Livi in their attempt to play football.

In the 35th minute Davis played in left-back Andy Halliday but Schofield brilliantly tipped his toe-poke from close range on to the bar and over for a corner, but again Gerrard's team failed to capitalise.

Schofield again came to Livi's rescue when he blocked a drive from Davis after the Northern Irishman had been slipped in by Ianis Hagi, and then saved a low drive from Kent in the 54th minute. Kent was replaced by Hibernian loanee Florian Kamberi two minutes later.

At the other end, Rangers keeper Allan McGregor had to make a superb save from Souda's acrobatic close-range strike following a Livi throw-in, to keep the game goalless.

The unmarked Arfield changed that when he took a pass from Hagi, turned and beat Schofield with a powerful drive for his fourth goal in three games.

Morelos had the ball in the net in the 71st minute but the flag was up for offside.

Almost 10 minutes later Livi striker Lyndon Dykes took a pass from substitute Dolly Menga and crashed a shot off the post with McGregor beaten, before testing the Rangers keeper with another drive.

The visitors continued to push for an equaliser, but their efforts were in vain, while Rangers were denied a second with the offside flag frustrating Kamberi after he had netted.

What the managers said

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard: "We aren't firing on all cylinders at the minute so it is important that you get the over the line and we did that today but we could have done it more convincingly.

"I'm disappointed in the officials today, I must say. When they look back at their performance I think they will be disappointed.

"I think he got the second one just right, we accept that one but Morelos' one is onside and there is a stonewall penalty. It is a blatant handball. The referee said to Connor Goldson that he couldn't give it because of the conditions. He didn't mean it. That is new to me.

"I don't like talking about officials especially after a defeat because you can look like the violin is out or you are looking for excuses but when I think the timing is right, I must say I was disappointed in them today."

Livingston boss Gary Holt: "I said to the players we are not going to use it as an excuse. I said, 'don't come in here after the game saying we didn't have time to prepare right, or we didn't do our usual routine'.

"The game was on, we accept that and got on with it and I think both teams went about it in the right way. Considering the conditions I thought it was a really good game of football. Both teams coped with the wind and rain really well.

"But I'm disappointed we never came away with something out of the game."

What's next?

Rangers have a Europa League return to look forward to as they host Braga at Ibrox on Thursday night at 8pm. Livingston travel to Hibs next Saturday at 3pm.

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