James Tavernier double helps Rangers cruise to victory at Livingston
James Tavernier grabbed a double as Rangers overcame Livingston 3-0 at the Tony Macaroni Arena to set them up for the Old Firm Cup final next week.
The Gers skipper scored with a penalty in the 24th minute and, after Livi’s Stephane Omeonga was sent off by referee David Dickinson in the 77th minute for a second yellow card offence, Tavernier curled the ball high past keeper Shamal George from the resultant free-kick.
Substitute Kemar Roofe added a third to ensure Michael Beale extended his record since becoming Gers boss to 13 wins and a draw and keep the Govan men nine points behind leaders Celtic, who beat Aberdeen 4-0, as the two Glasgow giants now turn their attention to the ViaPlay Cup final at Hampden Park next Sunday which promises to be an enthralling clash.
With injuries to Malik Tillman, Ryan Jack and John Lundstram, which will be the subject of interest ahead of next week’s final, Beale reshuffled his side.
Ryan Kent, Fashion Sakala and striker Alfredo Morelos came back in with the steadying influence of Connor Goldson restored to central defence.
Livi, with Sean Kelly and Omeonga in for Jason Holt and Bruce Anderson, had to defend a couple of early corners before Tavernier drove a shot from distance over the bar.
The visitors took control and Sakala had the ball in the net from a Morelos cross in the 11th minute but was ruled offside.
A better Tavernier effort from distance was well saved by Livi keeper Shamal George before he got the breakthrough.
A clear pull on Morelos’ jersey by Livingston’s James Penrice as the Colombia international tried to get to a cross was missed by referee Dickinson but after a VAR check he went over to look at his monitor and pointed to the spot, with Tavernier slamming his spot kick past George.
Moments later at the other end, as Livingston responded, Penrice missed from six yards after captain Nicky Devlin’s long throw landed at his feet.
There was another VAR check when Kent went down in the Livi box under a challenge by Devlin but an earlier offside against the Gers attacker was upheld.
George beat away a powerful drive from Sakala early in the second half but the Govan club’s lead remained fragile and on the artificial surface against a dogged home side they just could not reach top gear.
In the 66th minute former Rangers midfielder Stephen Kelly miscued a terrific cross from Devlin to let the Light Blues off the hook and moments later George had to race from his line to block a shot from Kent.
Amid a series of substitutions Roofe replaced Sakala and seconds later drove a shot wide of George’s far post.
Livingston’s belief increased but then diminished when Omeonga, booked in the first half, was sent packing for tripping Roofe at the edge of the Livingston box.
Tavernier stepped up and curled the ball into the top corner from 20 yards and, when Roofe pounced amid a goalmouth melee following a Borna Barisic free-kick to thrash in the third, the points were Ibrox-bound.
It was a deserved win for Rangers but they will have to produce better when they face relentless Celtic next weekend where the first major trophy of the season is up for grabs.
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