Livingston 0-1 Rangers: Alfredo Morelos strike puts Steven Gerrard's side on verge of title

Match report as Alfredo Morelos' late strike hands Rangers a 1-0 victory at Livingston; Morelos denied a penalty and booked for simulation in first half; Steven Gerrard sent off at half-time for protesting decision; Morelos' late strike sends Rangers 18 points clear at top

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Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Livingston and Rangers.

Rangers moved to the verge of a first Scottish Premiership title since 2011 after Alfredo Morelos' late strike handed them a 1-0 victory at Livingston.

Morelos was involved in the big talking point of the first half as the striker was booked for simulation after going down under a challenge from goalkeeper Max Stryjek.

The incident led to Steven Gerrard protesting referee John Beaton's decision at half-time and the Rangers boss was sent to the stands after being shown two yellow cards.

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Rangers' Alfredo Morelos goes to ground under a challenge from Max Stryjek and is given a controversial yellow card for diving. Steven Gerrard questions the call at half-time and is shown a red card by referee John Beaton.

It didn't hamper the league leaders, who eventually took the lead in the 87th minute with Morelos in the right place at the right time to tap home after Stryjek parried Steven Davis' shot.

The win sees Gerrard's men move 18 points clear at the top of the table and they could win the title as early as Sunday if they beat St Mirren on Saturday and Celtic drop points at Dundee United on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

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Alfredo Morelos scores a late goal to put Rangers ahead 1-0 up against Livingston.

How Rangers closed in on the title...

Rangers Glen Kamara and Josh Mullin of Livingston in action
Image: Rangers Glen Kamara and Josh Mullin of Livingston in action

Livi's plastic pitch certainly did not help the spectacle in the early stages, with the action pin-balling between a series of aimless headers and high, lumped passes.

Filip Helander came close to the opener on the half-hour mark as he met Borna Barisic's out-swinging corner flush, with his header creeping just over the bar.

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Player ratings

Livingston: Stryjek (7), Devlin (6), Fitzwater (7), Guthrie (6), Serrano (6), Bartley (7), Holt (6), Sibbald (6), Pittman (6), Mullin (6), Reilly (6).

Subs: Robinson (6), Lawson (6), Tiffoney (6).

Rangers: McGregor (6), Patterson (7), Goldson (7), Helander (7), Barisic (6), Kamara (7), Davis (8), Arfield (7), Aribo (7), Kent (6), Morelos (8).

Subs: Itten (6), Sungu (n/a).

Man of the match: Steven Davis.

It had been a rather uneventful contest until Beaton intervened eight minutes before the break.

Morelos hit the deck as he went past Stryjek while chasing down Steven Davis' sublime ball over the top.

Beaton looked for a moment set to point to the spot before changing his mind and reaching for the top pocket to book Morelos. Gerrard exploded on the touchline and had every right as replays showed Livi's Polish keeper had made clear contact as he clipped Morelos' heel.

Rangers thought they should have had a penalty when Alfredo Morelos was challenged by goalkeeper Max Stryjek
Image: Rangers thought they should have had a penalty when Alfredo Morelos was challenged by goalkeeper Max Stryjek

Rangers had a decent claim for another penalty moments later as Joe Aribo sent Ryan Kent down the left. The winger's cross was blocked but only as far as Arfield, who squeezed wide just as Sibbald dived in late.

Again Beaton looked away but he could not escape Gerrard's gaze as the irate boss strode onto the pitch to confront the official at half-time. A yellow card was not enough to halt his outburst and he spent the second half watching from the stands.

Rangers manger Steven Gerrard speaks to referee John Beaton at half time
Image: Rangers manger Steven Gerrard speaks to referee John Beaton at half time

His mood was not helped either by the sight of an offside flag going up just as Connor Goldson headed home from Barisic's free-kick four minutes after the restart.

A Fitzwater block then frustrated Kent as Aribo released the former Liverpool player through the middle.

If the half-time bust-up had not been explosive enough, Beaton was then forced to momentarily call a halt to the action as a barrage of fireworks were let off outside the ground in the 55th minute by Rangers fans hailing what they expect to be the imminent arrival of the club's 55th league crown.

Team news

  • Lions boss David Martindale freshened up the team left heartbroken as Hampden as Max Stryjek replaced on-loan Rangers keeper Robby McCrorie, with Jack Fitzwater, Craig Sibbald and Gavin Reilly also returning.
  • Nathan Patterson – who still has a hefty ban looming following his Covid-19 breach – came in to make his first league start after last week’s Europa League heroics against Royal Antwerp while Scott Arfield was in from the kick-off for the first time since mid-December.

Once the banging ceased - and some debris that had rained down on the pitch was removed - the action resumed with Morelos driving onto a Glen Kamara pass but Stryjek was down smartly to save.

Morelos took the wrong option with 15 minutes left as he fizzed across goal when he had Kent and substitute Cedric Itten screaming for a cut-back.

However, there was no complaints from his team-mates with three minutes left as he bundled home his 14th goal of the season after Stryjek spilled a Davis shot at his feet.

Alfredo Morelos celebrates with Ianis Hagi after scoring to make it 1-0 Rangers during a UEFA Europa League match between Rangers and Royal Antwerp at Ibrox Stadium, on February 25, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group) 1:18
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says striker Alfredo Morelos danced topless to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline after scoring the winner in their 1-0 victory at Livingston.

When can Rangers win the title?

Alfredo Morelos celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 Rangers
Image: Alfredo Morelos celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 Rangers

Should nearest challengers Celtic win their next game, against Dundee United, even a point for Rangers against St Mirren at Ibrox on Saturday would give them the chance to seal the title in the Old Firm match on March 21 at Parkhead, in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Could they win it even earlier?

Yes, they could - as early as Sunday.

At the moment, they are four points off being mathematically crowned champions, so if Celtic drop points against Dundee United, as long as Rangers win against St Mirren, it would guarantee them the title.

Even if Rangers do win their next game, however, they won't know their fate until afterwards - as John Kennedy's side play Dundee United next Sunday, live on Sky Sports; kick-off at 12pm.

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Rangers midfielder Steven Davis was pleased with the team's patience in their dramatic 1-0 win over Livingston.

What the managers said...

Livingston boss David Martindale: "We got a bit lucky in the first half. Looking back, it was a penalty. We have some chances ourselves that I think we have to do better with and then to lose a late goal, I am just gutted for the players to lose it in the way they did.

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Livingston boss David Martindale says he was disappointed to see his team concede a late winner to Rangers but could not fault their effort against the Scottish Premiership leaders.

"They were brilliant and resilient at the back. We wanted to force Rangers into long balls and the game-plan worked to a certain extent. I said in the dressing-room, I can't wait to finally get these three points that will secure a top-six finish."

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard: "We had to deal with direct play, physicality and be brave. At the right times, we had to play and we did that. We got out the game what we deserved in the end."

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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has apologised for getting sent off during their dramatic 1-0 win at Livingston but says he is stunned that Alfredo Morelos was not given a penalty during the first half.

On his sending off and Morelos' booking for simulation: "We should have had a blatant penalty in the first half and that explains the commotion at half-time. We're closer to where we want to be."

What's next?

Rangers host St Mirren on Saturday; kick-off 3pm. Meanwhile, Livingston travel to Motherwell, also on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.

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