Soccer  

Kilmarnock 2-3 Rangers: Morelos double in comeback win

Alfredo Morelos brought Rangers level before half-time
Alfredo Morelos brought Rangers level before half-time

Alfredo Morelos inspired Rangers to victory at 10-man Kilmarnock as they staged another recovery to prevent further damage to their Scottish Premiership title hopes.

Chris Stokes crashed in a header – the fourth time Rangers have conceded first in Michael Beale’s eight games in charge – before Morelos levelled then teed up Ryan Kent’s strike.

The Colombia striker extended the lead after Danny Armstrong’s red card, but Rangers endured a nervous finale after Joe Wright’s brilliant volley.

Beale’s men held firm to complete a comeback win that keeps them within nine points of Celtic, while second-bottom Kilmarnock remain three points clear of Ross County.

Rangers have not been without their troubles at Rugby Park in recent years – four of their previous seven league visits had ended in defeat – and another fraught visit beckoned following a sluggish start that will concern Beale.

It was not as if his side hadn’t been warned either – Ash Taylor planted a free header wide of the unguarded net after Jon McLaughlin completely missed an Armstrong corner.

Just a couple of minutes later, another Armstrong delivery caused panic in the Rangers box and Stokes rose above Scott Arfield to give Kilmarnock a deserved lead.

Rangers were rattled, sloppy in possession and second to every ball as the hosts tore at them and showed no hangover from their Viaplay Cup semi-final loss to Celtic last Sunday.

Winger Armstrong, a standout at Hampden, was again at the heart of Kilmarnock’s best work before ruining his performance with a forearm smash on Borna Barisic that left referee Kevin Clancy little choice but to show a second yellow.

By then Rangers had turned the deficit into a lead either side of half-time without looking hugely convincing.

Connor Goldson had a header parried away by Sam Walker before Beale’s men crafted a slick equaliser as James Tavernier released Fashion Sakala down the right and the forward’s cutback was perfect for Morelos to sweep home with a first-time finish.

Morelos was involved again as Rangers surged ahead, rolling a pass for Kent to thump into the bottom corner as Kilmarnock were caught out by a rapid attack.

The Colombia striker nodded in Barisic’s cross to give the visitors breathing space and he might have had a hat-trick – Walker denied him with a sprawling save – as Rangers looked to be cantering to victory until Wright lashed into top corner with five minutes to go.

Beale’s men almost immediately restored their two-goal advantage as Malik Tillman brought the best out of Walker, but former Ibrox striker Kyle Lafferty had a long-range effort pushed away from the top corner by McLaughlin as Kilmarnock fought to the last.

Player of the match – Alfredo Morelos

Two goals and an assist capped a fine night's work for the Rangers striker
Two goals and an assist capped a fine night’s work for the Rangers striker

Keeper role in question as Rangers battle back – analysis

The effectiveness of Beale’s policy of rotating goalkeepers McLaughlin and Allan McGregor comes into question after a soft early concession.

McLaughlin was ill at ease coping with high balls during that torrid spell and Kilmarnock had clearly targeted a vulnerability in Rangers’ ability to deal with set-pieces as they slung in a succession of dangerous deliveries.

However, Rangers weathered the storm and produced another fightback that is quickly becoming a hallmark under Beale.

Morelos and Kent provided the attacking thrust as both players offered a glimpse of the form they have too often failed to produce this season.

For Kilmarnock, Armstrong’s needless and reckless challenge on Barisic effectively ended their hopes of mounting a comeback of their own.

Derek McInnes’ bold set-up of two strikers had paid off with his side’s strong start, and while Rangers gradually assumed control, the hosts were right in it until the dismissal. Even a man down they never gave up the cause.

After a third consecutive game against either of the Old Firm, McInnes will look for this level of performance when Kilmarnock take on relegation rivals Ross County and Dundee United in their next two league games.

What they said

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes: “We set off the way we wanted, imposed ourselves physically, played a high tempo and got balls in the box.

“But Rangers were good from 20-25 minutes to the end of the first half – they were enjoying the game too much and it was difficult to contain them.

“The game changes really on the second yellow card for Danny and from there it was an uphill task.”

Rangers manager Michael Beale: “The first 5-10 minutes, Killie came right for us and we were slow to start. We told the players what to expect but didn’t heed that warning.

“After that, we grew in the game, scored a fantastic equaliser then were excellent for large periods of the second half and got 3-1 in front and should have taken one or two more opportunities.

“Then we concede a silly free-kick, it’s a great strike from the lad, and same old story – it’s heart in mouth for the final five minutes.”

What’s next?

The focus turns to the Scottish Cup on Saturday, with Rangers beginning their defence of the trophy away to St Johnstone (17:30 GMT) while Kilmarnock host League 2 side Dumbarton (15:00).

Player of the match

WalkerSam Walker

Kilmarnock

  1. Squad number20Player nameWalker

  2. Squad number23Player nameVassell

  3. Squad number7Player nameMcKenzie

  4. Squad number21Player nameMcInroy

  5. Squad number31Player namePolworth

  6. Squad number19Player nameWright

  7. Squad number4Player namePower

  8. Squad number6Player nameStokes

  9. Squad number26Player nameDoidge

  10. Squad number5Player nameTaylor

  11. Squad number11Player nameArmstrong

  12. Squad number25Player nameAlebiosu

  13. Squad number16Player nameRobinson

  14. Squad number8Player nameAlston

  15. Squad number28Player nameLafferty

Rangers

  1. Squad number20Player nameMorelos

  2. Squad number30Player nameSakala

  3. Squad number14Player nameKent

  4. Squad number6Player nameGoldson

  5. Squad number37Player nameArfield

  6. Squad number4Player nameLundstram

  7. Squad number26Player nameDavies

  8. Squad number18Player nameKamara

  9. Squad number2Player nameTavernier

  10. Squad number31Player nameBarisic

  11. Squad number71Player nameTillman

  12. Squad number19Player nameSands

  13. Squad number33Player nameMcLaughlin

Line-ups

Kilmarnock

Formation 4-4-2

  • 20Walker
  • 25Alebiosu
  • 5Taylor
  • 19Wright
  • 6StokesSubstituted forRobinsonat 80′minutes
  • 11ArmstrongBooked at 59mins
  • 31Polworth
  • 4PowerBooked at 19mins
  • 7McKenzieSubstituted forAlstonat 37′minutes
  • 23VassellSubstituted forLaffertyat 80′minutes
  • 26DoidgeSubstituted forMcInroyat 64′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Hemming
  • 8Alston
  • 14Sanders
  • 15Murray
  • 16Robinson
  • 17Lyons
  • 18Waters
  • 21McInroy
  • 28Lafferty

Rangers

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 33McLaughlin
  • 2Tavernier
  • 6Goldson
  • 26Davies
  • 31Barisic
  • 18KamaraSubstituted forSandsat 83′minutes
  • 4Lundstram
  • 30Sakala
  • 37Arfield
  • 14KentBooked at 55mins
  • 20MorelosBooked at 36minsSubstituted forTillmanat 78′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1McGregor
  • 8Jack
  • 19Sands
  • 23Wright
  • 29McCann
  • 38King
  • 44Devine
  • 51Lowry
  • 71Tillman

Referee:
Kevin Clancy

Attendance:
8,461

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