After the semi-final scrap that caused Rangers and their manager a mountain of grief, Caixinha’s team could not even succeed in achieving the scrappy victory they so desperately required.
Leading 1-0 going into the closing seconds, bizarrely a penalty awarded to them for a brainless trip on Eduardo Herrera by Kirk Broadfoot ended up being their undoing – this club proving a magnet for mayhem as the nature and fall-out from their League Cup semi-final loss to Motherwell on Sunday had illustrated.
What happened as Daniel Candeias stepped up to take the penalty that should have sealed victory told all about the bedevilled nature of Rangers right now.
Ryan Jack and Broadfoot went face-to-face, with Jack appearing to headbutt the defender. A melee ensued and it took Alan Muir minutes to restore order. When he did, he brandished only two yellows, only for fourth official Scott Millar to step on to the field and put him right on Jack’s indiscretion. All of this meant six minutes of time being added on as Candeias had his spot-kick saved by Jamie MacDonald.
From that, Kilmarnock galloped up the pitch, with Stephen O’Donnell driving a cross in from the right that Chris Burke bundled in.
A shambolic conclusion for Rangers, it was an outcome that Kilmarnock, under new manager Steve Clarke for the first time, deserved. Jason Holt’s 43rd-minute goal apart, Rangers hardly looked like a team giving everything to relieve the mounting pressure on their manager.
Rather, they appeared more like a side smarting. Not just from their dusting up by Motherwell, but also the meanderings of their manager, who had deemed fit to lay into them for the semi-final loss, with his claims they had “embarrassed” one and all – despite having taken responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the match. Caixinha certainly took responsibility for his equally ill-measured antics during the actual game in accepting a one-match ban for the touchline altercation over Motherwell’s rough house that led to him being sent to the stand at Hampden.
It meant him watching from the stand during last night’s Ibrox encounter his team dared not lose if his bleak employment prospects weren’t to be turned tar-black. The fact that chairman and major shareholder Dave King was in attendance, having not yet returned to his South African base, might have caused the Portuguese coach as much discomfort as his seating arrangements.
The lustre was certainly lacking against a Kilmarnock side guided from the technical area by Clarke for the first time. The former West Brom manager cut an impassive figure but then there was little in the early stages to move him one way or another, though he would curse Greg Taylor failing to make the most of a glorious opening that came after he drifted in off the left and found himself with a clear sight of goal. In attempting to steer the ball wide of keeper Wes Foderingham, he succeeded only in allowing the Rangers No 1 an easy hold down to his left.
By then Rangers had lost the services of Clarke’s former Hawthorns player Graham Dorrans, who limped off after 22 minutes.
Clarke, though, did not face a collection of Portuguese and Mexican performers, as had been cited as accounting for their physical overpowering at the weekend.
The reality of Rangers is somewhat different. Last night they started with eight British players, captain Bruno Alves one of the exceptions in having chosen to contest a two-match ban from the SFA compliance officer
Centre-back Fabio Cardoso was missed after having his nose broken by Ryan Bowman and the defender claimed in last night’s Rangers programme that “some things that happened in the game can’t be allowed because this is football, it’s not wrestling.”
Until the end, there wasn’t anything of that nature. As the interval approached, a couple of slick openings – one of which forced MacDonald to save sharply from Josh Windass – indicated that the home side had upped their intent.
They delivered on it when Alfredo Morelos teed up Jason Holt to hammer a shot high into the net.
Rangers’ fragility means that they always seem liable to suffer a low blow - with the punch last night of the sucker variety.