Rangers back to winning ways despite second-half frustration
Rangers showed both the good and bad sides of their personality during their 3-1 win over struggling Kilmarnock at Ibrox.
Gers players and fans were still smarting from the ViaPlay Cup final defeat to Old Firm rivals Celtic at Hampden Park last Sunday, Michael Beale’s first defeat as boss, as they turned their attention back to the cinch Premiership.
Defender Connor Goldson’s goal after six minutes prevented the visitors settling into the game and winger Fashion Sakala doubled the lead with a drive on 25 minutes before skipper James Tavernier scored from the spot just before the break after VAR had identified handball.
Supporters’ contentment turned to consternation however, when Killie defender Jeriel Dorsett reduced the deficit on the hour mark and the home side could not get back into their first-half stride.
The Gers moved within six points of league leaders Celtic, who play at St Mirren on Sunday, but the title is surely Parkhead-bound again.
Rangers fans turned up looking for a reaction and hope for the rest of the season, if not further ahead.
Most would have been happy to see January signings Nicolas Raskin and Todd Cantwell return to the starting line-up, with Ryan Jack also coming into midfield while striker Antonio Colak replaced Alfredo Morelos.
John Souttar was on the bench after recovering from an ankle injury which had kept him out since his debut against Livingston on the opening day of the season.
Killie’s loan defender Lewis Mayo was unable to play against his parent club and Scott Robinson dropped out as Dorsett and Ryan Alebiosu came into the side.
A section of the Gers support held up banner which read: ‘After fifty-five titles. You took your eye off the ball. Time for change’ which received a round of applause from around the stands but soon the fans were cheering the much-needed early goal.
Following a short corner, Cantwell had two efforts blocked before Colak tried his luck with a drive which brought a save from Sam Walker – but when the ball fell to Goldson the Light Blues defender swept the ball in from eight yards.
In the 15th minute Walker made a good save from Sakala’s angled drive following a Ben Davies pass before the attacker sent a Ryan Kent cross wide of the target.
However, when the Govan side got a break of the ball inside the Killie box following another attack, Colak set up Sakala to sidefoot home from 12 yards.
The home side took complete command. Colak cleared the bar with a decent drive but after referee Willie Collum went to his pitchside monitor and then pointed to the spot after judging Alebiosu had handled a cross under pressure from Kent, Tavernier slammed the ball past Walker.
Killie started the second half smartly and there were calls for a penalty when Gers keeper Allan McGregor tangled with Rory McKenzie in the box but they went unheeded, before Killie defender Ash Taylor slid in at the back post but hit the side netting.
However, when Taylor rose to head a corner back across goal, Dorsett, making his first start since November, directed the ball into the Gers net for his first Killie goal.
The Gers fans vented their frustration and the slick movement of their side in the first half disappeared as every slack pass brought groans.
Walker beat away a long-distance strike from Tavernier then saved a close-range header from Colak, and Jack had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.
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