Rangers hit stride to march back to the top

Rangers 3 Livingston 0
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The Independent Football

The biggest roars of the day - aside from those to acclaim the goals of Dado Prso, Jose Pierre-Fanfan and Peter Lovenkrands - came every time the stadium's giant screens showed certain images from 70 days ago. And it did not involve a single player from Alex McLeish's side.

With the sight of Motherwell's Scott McDonald scoring the two late goals against Celtic in May that handed the title to Rangers, Govan was rich in Schadenfreude, as much because of the events of that day as the dreadful start made by the new Celtic manager Gordon Strachan at Parkhead.

This emphatic success took them to the top of the table, just where they finished 10 weeks ago.

The sell-out crowd delighted in the sight of the SPL trophy as well as the unfurling of the league flag by the chairman David Murray, the annual ceremony which is the reward for every set of champions.

Poor Paul Lambert looked on powerless. The man who won a Champons' League medal with Borussia Dortmund and titles with Celtic was making his baptism as a manager after taking over at Livingston during the summer. Lambert, dressed in a neat suit, still has a slim figure at 35 that looks as if he should be out on the pitch.

The urge does not seem to have left him. Early in the contest, he stuck out a leg as Lovenkrands encroached in the visitors' technical area. Old midfielders never die.

Ironically, the man who confronted him in the other dugout was his former manager at Motherwell, McLeish. Livingston, though, were in no mood to submit meekly. They snapped at Rangers successfully for 22 minutes until Prso broke the deadlock.

A passage of fierce pressure ended with Lovenkrands' cross being hooked away by Derek Adams to the feet of Alex Rae whose venomous shot was beaten out by the goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie for Prso to thump in the rebound.

Lambert's team should have equalised two minutes before the break when Richard Brittain delivered a menacing ball across the face of goal but none of his colleagues was at to the back post. "You have to take your chances at Ibrox," Lambert lamented.

However, the game was put beyond Livingston when Pierre-Fanfan doubled Rangers' lead. The French defender met a looping header from Prso that arced over McKenzie and stabbed the ball over the line from close range.

Brittain's dismissal 14 minutes from the end for scything down Ian Murray put further pressure on Lambert's young side and they buckled in stoppage time as Lovenkrands - whose move to Middlesbrough fell through in midweek - cut in from the left and steered a fine right-foot finish past McKenzie from the edge of the box.

"It's only the first game and this time last season we dropped points and were being written off," McLeish cautioned.

Goals: Prso (23) 1-0; Pierre-Fanfan (53); Lovenkrands (90).

Rangers (4-4-2): Waterreus; Ricksen, Andrews, Pierre-Fanfan, Murray; Buffel (McCormack, 70), Ferguson, Rae, Lovenkrands; Prso (Thompson, 63), Novo (Adam, 84). Substitutes not used: Klos (gk), Malcolm, Burke, Smith.

Livingston (4-5-1): McKenzie; Mackay, Pinxten, Dorado, Tierney; Brittain, Adams, Walker (McLaughlin, 67), Tesevic; McPake (Pereira, 57), Scott (Snodgrass, 57). Substitutes not used: Roy (gk), Strong, Adam, Dorrans.

Booked: Livingston Pereira, Walker.

Sent off: Brittain (74).

Referee: C Thomson.

Man of the match: Ferguson.

Attendance: 49,613.

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