Rangers extended their unbeaten start under manager Phillipe Clement to seven games with a 2-0 win over Livingston as VAR came in for criticism once again.
James Tavernier missed and scored a penalty either side of Cyrille Dessers’ first-half goal as Rangers closed the gap on Celtic to five points ahead of their game against Aberdeen on Sunday afternoon, live on Sky Sports.
The VAR rightly ruled out Connor Goldson’s goal after 14 minutes and awarded Rangers’ second-half penalty for a handball by Mikey Devlin but failed to spot Ross McCausland’s blatant dive for the visitors’ first spot-kick.
“It is a clear dive,” said Sky Sports pundit Chris Sutton. “I don’t understand how the VAR isn’t talking to the ref. He should be cautioned. It was justice from Livingston’s perspective.”
Referee Steve McLean denied McCausland, the 20-year-old, his first Rangers goal at the close of the first half for a soft push by Abdallah Sima in the build-up. “I don’t think it’s a foul and the goal should stand. It’s a brilliant finish,” said Sky Sports pundit James McFadden.
Livingston’s losing run now stretches to five games after another abject display. They are bottom of the Scottish Premiership below Ross County on goal difference.
How Rangers beat Livingston
After enjoying a bright opening, the Ibrox side thought they had gone ahead in the 16th minute when Goldson had the ball in the net from close range.
After four consecutive defeats left his side bottom of the table prior to the visit of the on-form Ibrox men, Livi boss David Martindale made five changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Dundee last Sunday.
Goalkeeper Jack Hamilton, Miles Welch-Hayes, Jason Holt, Danny Lloyd and Stephen Kelly all dropped out to make way for Shamal George, Cristian Montano, Mo Sangare, Bruce Anderson and Luiyi de Lucas.
Clement freshened up his Rangers team for the trip to West Lothian, making four alterations to the XI that started Thursday night’s 2-1 win at home to Sparta Prague in the Europa League.
Ben Davies, Todd Cantwell, Sam Lammers and Danilo dropped out to be replaced by Leon Balogun, Dessers, Tom Lawrence and Ross McCausland, who was handed his first Gers start.
However, the goal was ruled out following a VAR check after Dessers was deemed to have been offside and interfering with play as he darted in at the near post and tried to get a touch on Tavernier’s inswinging free-kick. The wrong-footed Livi keeper Shamil George then pushed the ball out to Leon Balogun, who in turn nodded it into the path of fellow centre-back Goldson.
Rangers created a good opening with a rapid counter-attack three minutes later but McCausland shot over after bursting on to a Lawrence pass.
The 20-year-old winger’s pace caused more problems for the Lions midway through the first half when he won a penalty after being brought down by George as he ran on to a Tavernier pass.
Tavernier, however, sent his spot kick wide of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.
Rangers had been well on top and they made a deserved breakthrough in the 26th minute when a lovely pass from Tom Lawrence released Nigerian forward Dessers, who got away from Sean Kelly to slot the ball behind the advancing George.
McCausland thought he had scored his first senior goal for Rangers when he fired the ball high into the net just before half-time but the goal was disallowed for a foul by Sima.
Rangers continued to dominate after the break but – after struggling to create many clear chances – they had to wait until the 74th minute to put the game beyond their hosts.
Following a VAR check, it was deemed that the ball struck the arm of Devlin as the Livi captain challenged Rangers forwards Danilo and Sima in the air while trying to defend a cross from the left from Borna Barisic.
This time Tavernier made no mistake in tucking the ball to the right of the helpless George as Rangers continued their strong start to Clement’s reign and left Livi at the foot of the table on goal difference from Ross County.
Livingston’s next Scottish Premiership match is away to St Mirren on November 25. Kick-off 3pm.
Rangers face Aberdeen at Pittodrie on November 26, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12pm.