Magic Morelos keeps Gerrard momentum up
IF Steven Gerrard is to be believed, the fulfilling 30 minutes Alfredo Morelos conjured here at Ibrox was one of the best half- hours since Hancock was around.
Brought on to replace Kyle Lafferty with 60 minutes gone, t he Colombian’s energising endeavour spawned a goal and an assist as Rangers surged to a three-goal victory that reads more convincingly than it actually was.
At t he t i me of Morelos’s emergence, the hosts were one goal to the good but they hardly held the game in a double nelson as a sprightly, sturdy Livingston more than earned their salt. “I thought maybe he [Morelos] could provide the spark to put the game to bed … and he did,” said Gerrard.
A clinical finish on 83 minutes, his 16th goal of the season, settled any growing nerves while his surge and cut-back for Scott Arfield in the last knockings put the tin lid on affairs.
“His performance for 30 minutes was superb,” added Gerrard as he shovelled great lumps of acclaim on the 22-year-old, who scored 18 last season. “There’s no doubt about it, he’s going to shatter what he got last season. I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep him here for as long as possible.
“I’ll fall out with people to keep him here. I love him but I also understand every player has his price.”
The price to pay for Morelos’s all- action approach, though, is bookings and another yesterday was his sixth yellow card in the league this season. A suspension for the match with Dundee in early December will follow.
“I need to share some of that blame,” conceded Gerrard. “I’m asking him to be in faces and be aggressive and press and not stop short.”
With a busy programme of four games in 11 days on both home and European fronts, Gerrard opted to start with Lafferty over Morelos in some carefully considered squad management. The Nor t her n Irishman put in plenty of spade work in the early stages but it was the visitors who came within a whisker of forging the lead.
From a partially-cleared free-kick, Shaun Byrne’s deflected pop at goal found its way to Alan Lithgow and his squirt on the turn trundled off the post. That let- off seemed to give Rangers an added injection of oomph as they mounted a series of fearsome charges that could have been accompanied with fixed bayonets.
The hard- pressed Livingston defence was creaking like the outhouse door in a stiff breeze and it eventually swung open on 21 minutes as Rangers burst through. Glenn Middleton’s corner from the right was met by Daniel Candeias and his header flew into the net.
It certainly wasn’t all plain-sailing for the hosts after gaining the lead, though. Livingston, who had shown an industrious willingness to get f o r war d , stoked up s o me heebie- j eebies in the Rangers rearguard as Scott Pittman pinged one just over after a scramble and Craig Halkett brought a diving parry out of Allan McGregor.
Having survived those menacing advances, Rangers really should have doubled their lead as half- time loomed. Lithgow’s attempt at a forward thump was blocked by Arfield and it sent Lafferty bounding free, but he could only stroke his effort into the side-netting. The hands on his head summed up t he general feeling.
Rangers could have done with the cushion of a second goal because Livingston, organised, tireless, tidy