Rangers verdict: Justice is done for Alfredo Morelos but Steven Gerrard faces touchline sweat for title decider
Booked and then sent off in rapid fire style by referee John Beaton when he protested a decision to refuse Rangers a penalty kick and instead caution Alfredo Morelos for simulation when he was challenged by Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek, Gerrard watched from the stand after the break as justice was done when the Colombian striker grabbed the game’s only goal in the 87th minute.
It leaves Rangers just four points away from clinching a 55th league title. The finishing line could be crossed as soon as this weekend if they beat St Mirren at Ibrox on Saturday and outgoing champions Celtic drop anything at Dundee United the following day.
Gerrard now faces a sweat to see if disciplinary action from the Scottish FA will deny him a place on the sideline whenever his team do formally secure the prize they cherish so badly.
But just like the Rangers supporters who gathered outside the Tony Macaroni Arena and set off the pyrotechnics display in the 55th minute, Gerrard won’t be too fussy about his vantage point when the formal title-winning celebrations begin.
Gerrard recently said he ‘loves a 1-0 win’ and this one, their fourth victory by that margin in their last six league games, was another example of the impressive mentality he has drilled into the core of his team this season.
A 23rd clean sheet in 31 Premiership fixtures was rarely in any doubt, albeit Livingston carved out a couple of decent chances on the counter attack.
While a draw wouldn’t have constituted any great drama in the grander scheme of things for Rangers, their determination and hunger to claim all three points never wavered and was ultimately rewarded by the persistence of Morelos as he shook off the disappointment of previous missed chances to plunder his 14th goal of the season.
Gerrard’s fury at Beaton’s decision to caution Morelos for simulation in the 37th minute had been immediately clear to see as he reacted with a rare degree of animation at the edge of his technical area.
After having the best part of 10 minutes to nurse his wrath, he strode onto the pitch at the sound of the half-time whistle and confronted Beaton - prompting the flashing of a yellow and then red card in his direction.
In a contest always likely to be decided by the finest of margins, Gerrard’s frustration at the refusal of what appeared a sound penalty claim was understandable.
Just as they had during the goalless draw here back in August, Rangers dominated possession while finding clear-cut openings difficult to create against the suffocating pressing tactics of their hosts. But the dam finally broke when Morelos forced the ball home from close range after Steven Davis’ shot was parried by Stryjek.
Livingston (4-2-3-1): Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater, Guthrie, Serrano; Bartley, Holt (Lawson 68); Sibbald, Pittman, Mullin; Reilly (Robinson 23) (Tiffoney 75). Subs not used: Maley, McMillan, Taylor-Sinclair, Ambrose, Kabia, Forrest.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Patterson, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Arfield (Itten 73), Davis, Kamara; Aribo, Morelos, Kent (Zungu 90+1). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Bassey, Simpson, Hagi, Defoe, Wright, Stewart.
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