Rangers 2-0 Livingston: Steven Gerrard’s men reach the Scottish League Cup semi-finals

For Steven Gerrard and Rangers Hampden semi-finals are more of a novelty than they really should be.

It’s now two years since the Ibrox side appeared in the last four of a cup competition at Scotland’s National Stadium.

A 3-0 win over Hearts ended in a gut-wrenching defeat to ten man Celtic in the final. The monkey off the back after last season’s title triumph Gerrard will hope for better after seeing off Livingston in the last eight of the rebranded Premier Sports Cup.

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers are into the Scottish League Cup semis after beating Livingston 2-0

The half-time arrival of Ianis Hagi after a brush with coronavirus on international duty in North Macedonia was the catalyst for a comfortable win over David Martindale’s side. The Romanian international crafted the breakthrough for Kemar Roofe two minutes after the restart.

After a heroic win over Celtic on Sunday an error strewn second half from Livingston was epitomised by keeper Max Stryjek gifting a fourth goal of the season Alfredo Morelos after 63 minutes.

Rangers eased to a 3-0 victory at home to Livingston on the opening weekend of the Premiership and they are unbeaten in 11 against tonight’s opponents, winning 10 of those.

That run includes the only pervious League Cup meeting between the clubs, which was settled by a Glen Kamara goal in West Lothian in September 2019.

Rangers crashed out of both domestic cup competitions at the quarter-final stage to St Mirren and St Johnstone last season, to St Mirren and St Johnstone. Two goals ahead there was comfort enough here for Gerrard to hand new signing Juninho Bacuna a debut in the last 20 minutes as a replacement for goalscorer Morelos.

For Gerrard six changes to the starting eleven was always a mild gamble. In extending the unbeaten run over Livingston to 12 games and securing a place in he semi-final draw it paid off fine in the end.

Two of the expected changes to the team which dropped home points to Motherwell on Saturday –their first in 18 months – came at full-back.

Plenty feel Nathan Patterson should be starting games more often and the Scotland right-back showed why when he came close to opening the scoring after seven minutes.

A deft one two with Morelos crafted space for a crack at goal, Livingston keeper Max Stryjek denying Rangers a flying start.

For all their attacking flare, full-backs are rarely polished finishers. Calvin Bassey proved that on the left flank when he did brilliantly to ghost in behind the Livingston defence and control a raking diagonal ball from Conor Goldson.

Bassey’s first touch was good, his second to work the ball inside was even better. With the goal gaping the third let him down, the defender leaning back and lashing a wild effort over the bar from 15 yards.

Despite dropping points against Motherwell, many rated the first half performance as good as any this season. The same can’t be said of the opening 45 minutes here.

They came closest to breaking the stalemate when sliderule ball from Scott Wright provided an angled shot for the onside Alfredo Morelos 10 minutes before half-time. The Colombian’s thumping low strike needed a superb sliding block from Nicky Devlin to hook the ball to safety. With Kemar Roofe lurking the intervention was heroic.

Livingston had heroes all over the pitch in their weekend win over Celtic. Where goalscorer Andrew Shinnie won plaudits for his matchwinning turn as a makeshift centre-forward, he earned nothing but sympathy here.

Time after time the summer signing from Charlton was isolated up front with no one to help retain the ball. The introduction of former Hibs man Stephane Omeonga added bite to the Livingston midfield, yet this was another one of those nights when the West Lothian side camped eleven men behind the ball and hoped to nick something.

When Shinnie lost possession Rangers strode forward and Glen Kamara almost marked his lucrative new contract with a goal from 20 yards as visiting players stood off. David Martindale was concerned enough by chance ratio of six to nil in Rangers’ favour to hook midfielder Adam Lewis moments before half-time. 

There was no sign of an injury and Lewis looked distinctly unimpressed. With the possession stats reading 57 per cent in Rangers’ favour – it felt like like more – the visitors needed more of the ball to survive.

The one thing they didn’t need was an implosion in defence followed by the loss of an early second half goal.

Two things made Rangers better in the second half. The first was the introduction of Ianis Hagi as a half-time replacement in his first appearance since being diagnosed with coronavirus. The second was an aggressive pressing game absent from their first half performance.

The only hope Livingston have against Celtic and Rangers lies in keeping the head in defence, being organised and and concentrating. In the second half their composure deserted them completely. Time after time they gifted the ball to Rangers in dangerous areas.

The easiest goal Kemar Roofe will ever score was a case in point. Omenonga gave the ball away to John Lundstram and when it landed at the fresh feet of Hagi he drilled a low cross into the heart of the six yard box for the striker to smash the ball high into the net.

Livingston seemed to learn nothing. Keeper Max Stryjek kept the away team in the game with fine saves from Morelos and then Roofe after unforced errors on the edge of their own penalty area.

Yet the Livingston keeper soiled his copy book with a horrendous error for the goal which sealed a place in the semi-finals for Rangers.

Once again faffing around at the back left David Martindale shaking his head in exasperation. Gathering a meat and drink passback the Polish keeper made a terrible hash of clearing his lines, gifting the ball straight to the feet of Morelos. The striker steadied himself to leave Jack Fitzwater on his backside before lashing the second goal into the net. 

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