Rangers-Kilmarnock match verdict: Ibrox side respond to early scare but title chances look remote ahead of Saturday Old Firm showdown

Substitute Ben Davies celebrates scoring his first Rangers goal to put his side 2-1 in front against ten man Kilmarnock (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Substitute Ben Davies celebrates scoring his first Rangers goal to put his side 2-1 in front against ten man Kilmarnock (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Substitute Ben Davies celebrates scoring his first Rangers goal to put his side 2-1 in front against ten man Kilmarnock (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
As you were at the top as Rangers come from behind to beat ten-man Killie

Although it seemed like an awful lot of energy – nervous, as much as anything - needed to be exhausted in order to finish the weekend in almost the same place as they were before it, Rangers had to be satisfied with this ultimately comprehensive victory. They know it could have been a whole lot worse.

Rangers remain three points behind Celtic and still have an inferior goal difference of five, so it's as you were at the top ahead of this weekend's Old Firm showdown at Parkhead. The Ibrox side made up ground only in the yardstick of goals scored, although they are still lagging behind their rivals – 78 compared to 85.

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Even former Rangers defender-turned-pastor Marvin Andrews, who drew the Union "Jackpot" at half-time, might struggle to convince fans to keep the faith ahead of such a pivotal weekend.

Despite this win, Rangers don't look in the remotest bit capable of securing all three points in the lion's den on Saturday. Four goals sounds like a decent return from an afternoon that started so badly after they went behind just 12 minutes in. But the Ibrox side might yet rue more profligacy in front of goal.

The hosts clocked up 40 efforts on goal in a barmy match in the southside of Glasgow. A red card, a saved penalty, multiple VAR checks and a visiting team that were leading 1-0 up until the very last kick of the first half despite not managing a shot on target. These were just some of the salient details - although by no means all of them - in a crazy opening 45 minutes at Ibrox.

Somehow, Rangers’ title dream flickers on amid all this chaos. Fabio Silva equalised in the last moments of the first half to ward off the biggest seethe ever heard in a stadium celebrating its 125th anniversary. Everyone would have got it in the neck, from Rangers players to opposition ones and of course referee David Dickinson, who despite sending off Joe Wright and awarding the home team a penalty – brilliantly stopped by Will Dennis – still got the treatment when he walked off for a cuppa.

He was judged to be complicit in a state of affairs where Rangers were teetering on the brink. They were meant to be winning handsomely rather than requiring the latest of late equalisers simply to gain parity with the ten men from Ayrshire.

Silva’s intervention – he took the credit, though the last touch might have come off Killie defender Lewis Mayo - was supremely timely. Indeed, there was no time to re-start. A full eight minutes of time added on had already been played. Manager Philippe Clement gestured with his arms before walking off down the tunnel in a bid to rouse the fans. Positivity not negativity was needed at such a critical juncture of the title race. He knew his side’s chances of overhauling Celtic hinged on the next 45 minutes.

It was, then, a good time for Ben Davies to open his account for the club. Few had expected the long-time absent defender to play any part in these last, desperate weeks.

That he was named on the bench seemed notable enough. He stepped off from it at the start of the second half for his first appearance since December after Leon Balogun was kept inside with a muscle injury. John Lundstram’s shot shortly after the hour mark was saved but not held by Dennis, who despite scrambling to retrieve the ball could not prevent Davies bundling in. It lanced the boil of frustration that had been building. Still, it wasn’t as if Rangers could now relax. That was a luxury granted to Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers alone.

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He was on the beach somewhere in Scotland, presumably lapping all this up. After his side’s 3-0 victory over Hearts Rodgers divulged that he was heading away for the day so wouldn’t be watching Rangers’ attempt to respond. “I’ll be going up to the seaside up north and enjoying a bit of time up there,” he said. He was surely being kept abreast of what was happening as his team prepare to “have a bit of fun” – his words – this weekend against their rivals.

This looked like anything but fun for Rangers, who huffed and puffed. Both sides found it hard to get into their stride during such a messy start. A VAR check for a penalty to Rangers just three minutes in set the tone after the ball dribbled down the arms of both Dessers and Killie defender Corrie Ndaba. A goal from Lundstram was then ruled offside for offside against Dessers earlier in the move.

The visitors went ahead following their first foray upfield after Liam Donnelly swung in a ball to the back post. Tavernier, while under pressure from Matty Kennedy, deflected the ball past Jack Butland – the Rangers ‘keeper looked most culpable.

Ibrox was aghast. Rangers were meant to be running up a multi-goal victory but here they were having to chase the game. The game's defining moment arrived 20 minutes - Silva flicked the ball towards goal but it was blocked by Wright's flailing hand. Another VAR check. The defender was sent off and the penalty given, though Tavernier saw Dennis leap to his right to save. Kilmarnock might have preferred a deal where the Rangers skipper scored and Wright stayed on because, try as their depleted number did, it was an impossible job keeping Rangers out.

Defender Robbie Deas came on at the expense of winger Danny Armstrong, who had looked in the mood. The hosts sought to even things up by passing up several chances, although Mohamed Diomande was unfortunate with a thumping effort that hit the bar. Substitute Tom Lawrence curled in a sumptuous shot after 72 minutes to make it 3-1.

Defender John Souttar was on hand to head in number four after Dennis could only parry Lawrence's shot in time added on. It might something, it might mean nothing at all. More - far more - will be revealed on Saturday.



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