Rangers thrash Livingston to move to within one game of unbeaten league campaign
Rangers’ quest for an invincible league campaign will go down to the final day of the season after Steven Gerrard’s champions cleared their penultimate hurdle at Livingston
James Tavernier tucked home his 19th goal of the season from the penalty spot before Ryan Kent and Ianis Hagi sealed a 3-0 win at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
The new kings of Scotland have survived 37 fixtures without defeat so far, racking up 99 points in the process.
They now need only a draw to complete a blemish-free season and also smash through the century barrier when they host Aberdeen ahead of Saturday’s long-awaited trophy presentation.
Davie Martindale’s Livi still have reason to push on to the finish line ahead of their curtain-closer against St Johnstone, despite a fifth successive league game without a win. Victory for the winner will secure fifth place and a potential European slot.
There was a classy touch before kick-off as the hosts offered Gers a guard of honour from the halfway line as Gerrard’s team entered from the corner.
Rangers were making their third visit of the Premiership campaign to Almondvale.
The champions had hardly enjoyed their two previous trips along the M8, requiring a last-minute winner to scrape victory back in March following August’s frustrating goalless draw.
They appeared little happier on Livi’s sticky plastic surface in the opening stages this time, with the end-of-season vibe doing little to raise the enthusiasm levels.
Jack Simpson was definitely out of his comfort zone up against Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who created the first chance when he rolled Josh Mullin through on goal after sitting the former Bournemouth defender down on his backside.
Jon McLaughlin came to Simpson’s rescue that time but he soon found himself in Don Robertson’s book for dragging down Livi’s lumbering frontman after losing their next test of strength.
Rangers had been chapping at the Livi door without much success until three minutes before the break when Kemar Roofe’s gorgeous flick sent Hagi racing through.
The Romania international got his shot away but was immediately clattered into by Max Stryjek.
Livi will feel it was a harsh award given Hagi’s shot was well off-target but by the letter of the law Don Robertson well within his rights to give the spot-kick.
Tavernier slotted past Stryjek’s right hand to the delight of the 200 fans who gathered to watch their team from a hill just outside the ground.
Like the Light Blues’ last visit, the locked-out loyal launched a barrage of fireworks in the 55th minute to mark their heroes’ title triumph.Two minutes later their team exploded forward to grab the second.
Tavernier found Kent galloping infield with a pin-point 50-yard raker and the winger tapped home after a quick-fire exchange of passes with Alfredo Morelos.
Livi almost hit back immediately. Scott Pittman shook the bar with a volley but McLaughlin was up smartly to punch clear before Jon Guthrie could leap on the rebound.
But Martindale was left looking away in disgust as Jaze Kabia missed an absolute sitter, smashing against the base of the post despite having an empty net to aim at after Pittman’s clever flick from Nicky Devlin’s cross took McLaughlin out of the equation.
Kabia slotted another big chance wide and Livi were made to regret those missed opportunities as Hagi made sure Gers’ search for a loss-free campaign lived on in the 83rd minute, stroking home from Cedric Itten’s cut-back.