These sides had already met in the Betfred Cup second round at Rugby Park with Rangers coming out 3-1 winners against Kilmarnock that day thanks to an Alfredo Morelos ‘perfect’ hat trick. But how would Rangers react following their disappointing semi-final loss to Aberdeen in the same competition?
Steven Gerrard made four changes for the match against Kilmarnock, following the loss to the Dons at Hampden. Wes Foderingham started in goal, replacing Allan McGregor. Scott Arfield and Andy Halliday came into midfield in place of Ryan Jack and Ovie Ejaria. Alfredo Morelos, after serving his league cup suspension, replaced Umar Sadiq up front for the Gers.
Steve Clarke’s Killie were also looking to avenge a disappointing result, their 1-1 draw at home to Hamilton was one of only two Premiership fixtures at the weekend. Former Rangers defender Kirk Broadfoot was reinstated in defence to replace Scott Boyd. Three changes in midfield saw Gary Dicker, Jordan Jones and another former Ger in Chris Burke come in to replace Bright Enobakhare, Eamonn Brophy and their goalscorer at the weekend Rory McKenzie. Killie went for five in midfield in order to support lone striker Greg Stewart.
The Colombian is key
It didn’t take long for Alfredo Morelos to prove just how big a miss he is for Rangers. Scott Arfield picked the ball up in his own half before threading an excellent through ball to Ryan Kent. The Liverpool loanee advanced before freeing ‘El Bufalo’. Thanks to a deflected effort, he managed to pick up where he left off when facing Kilmarnock. He beat Jamie MacDonald to put the home side ahead with just five minutes on the clock. 13 in 22 for the Colombian this season so far.
However, the lead didn’t last long
Greg Stewart has proved to be a superb acquisition for Kilmarnock since arriving on loan from Birmingham. It was he who would grab the Ayrshire side’s equaliser after receiving from Aaron Tshibola, on loan from Blues’ fiercest rivals – Aston Villa.
Stewart advanced down the line before looking to cut inside Jon Flanagan. He got lucky with the ball deflecting off the full-back into his path. There was, however, nothing lucky about the finish whatsoever. From a tight angle, he sent a curling left-footed effort bending past Wes Foderingham in a flash to put Killie level. Stewart’s fourth goal in eight Kilmarnock appearances.
Same old story for comeback kings Killie
James Tavernier, perhaps unlucky to not be on the scoresheet on Sunday, continued his misfortune in front of goal. After picking up a stray ball, he glided towards goal before unleashing an strong effort. It smashed off the top of Jamie MacDonald’s crossbar as Rangers looked to take the lead once more.
Andy Halliday was next to try his luck from distance. A Daniel Candeias cross was turned away, with the clearance landing at the midfielder’s feet. He set himself before sending a left footed strike goalward which Jamie MacDonald had to turn behind.
Rangers pressure proving relentless
Into the second half and Rangers pressure continued. Candeias crossed to find Morelos again, who backheeled as though to find a teammate rather than score but Kirk Broadfoot steered straight into the path of Scott Arfield at the back post who spurned a glorious chance to regain the hosts’ lead.
Ryan Kent also had an effort turned past the post by MacDonald again, Killie grateful that their keeper was keeping them firmly in the match.
A James Tavernier corner then fell to Arfield again, the Canadian international, who had his back to goal and who upon trying to spin virtually inside the six yard box, wasn’t quite able to do so and Kilmarnock scrambled clear.
Kilmarnock, having not created an awful lot since Greg Stewart’s equaliser, may well have turned one point into all three. Again Stewart was at the heart of it, intercepting Joe Worrall on halfway and after evading Goldson, looked to poke it past Foderingham but the Killie forward was to be denied by the Rangers goalkeeper as it remained 1-1 and Killie robbed Rangers to go home with a point apiece.
Next up, on Saturday, Rangers travel to take on struggling St Mirren in Paisley with Kilmarnock hosting Aberdeen at Rugby Park on Sunday afternoon.