Aribo on scoresheet as Rangers defeat Livingston to keep pressure on Celtic
Joe Aribo experienced a far more enjoyable return trip to Livingston as his goal sent Rangers on their way to a 2-0 victory.
Aribo left the Tony Macaroni Arena with 20 stitches in a head wound after his side’s 1-0 Betfred Cup win in September but marked his recall to the team with his first Ladbrokes Premiership goal.
The Nigeria midfielder fired home in the 32nd minute following good work from Scott Arfield, the only other player to come into the Rangers side following their Europa League win over Porto.
Rangers all round had a far more comfortable trip to West Lothian than their narrow cup win after Alfredo Morelos finished from a tight angle in the 52nd minute to take his season tally to 22.
The victory kept the Light Blues one goal behind leaders Celtic, who also won 2-0 against Motherwell.
With Aribo’s injury in mind, Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard had called for the referee to protect players from head injuries in the build-up to the game. Those comments saw him accused of “naivety” by opposite number Gary Holt, who firmly denied his side endangered their opponents.
Other than a reckless tackle by Livingston defender Jack McMillan, there were no major flashpoints, although there was a minor injury for Rangers when they lost Ryan Kent to a knock in the second half.
The visitors threatened from long range early on when Matija Sarkic tipped away Ryan Jack’s dipping strike but Lyndon Dykes also suggested he could again cause Rangers problems, as he did on their last visit. The striker set up Steve Lawson to cross and the unmarked Scott Pittman missed his attempted header.
Referee Nick Walsh had his first big decision to make when McMillan launched himself into a challenge on Glen Kamara, eventually deciding on a yellow card.
The Livingston left-back was perhaps fortunate Kamara had jumped out of the way and soon got away with only a free-kick against him when he led with his arm in an aerial challenge on Arfield.
Lamie dispossessed Morelos as he looked set to score following a long ball down the middle and Kent’s 25-yard strike bounced wide as Rangers looked for the opener against a compact Livingston.
The opener came after Gerrard’s men finally got their hosts on the back foot when Connor Goldson won the ball in the air from Sarkic’s goal kick.
Arfield broke well and got the ball back from Morelos before sliding a first-time pass into the path of Aribo, who shot high into the net.
Livingston threatened an immediate response when Dykes chested down Pittman’s cross and fired high and wide.
Rangers came close before the break when Sarkic parried Kamara’s effort following good play from Borna Barisic.
Morelos got the second after running on to a ball down the left channel from Barisic. The Colombian, who may have been half a yard offside, out-muscled Hakeem Odoffin and hit a shot through the defender’s legs and just inside the far post.
Livingston’s Steven Lawless soon had a volley but the second goal effectively killed the game and Rangers could have had more in the latter stages.
Barisic’s shot struck the post via the body of Sarkic and substitute Greg Stewart missed a good chance.