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Arfield strikes late as Rangers struggle to break down Livingston

The champions remain four points ahead of Celtic after a hard-fought win.

Arfield strikes late as Rangers struggle to break down Livingston SNS Group
Scott Arfield's strike separated the sides at Ibrox.

Scott Arfield’s late strike gave Rangers a crucial 1-0 cinch Premiership win over Livingston at Ibrox.

On a rainy night in Glasgow, Arfield, a second-half replacement for James Sands, converted a Borna Barisic cross as the home side struggled to break down a well-organised West Lothian outfit.

The result kept the champions four points ahead of chasing Celtic, who beat Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst was without Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos due to a combination of injury, illness and suspension.

Alex Lowry, the 18-year-old midfielder, made his first start after scoring as a substitute in the Scottish Cup win over Stirling Albion on Friday night as keeper Allan McGregor, defenders Calvin Bassey and Barisic and midfielders Glen Kamara, Sands and Scott Wright all came back into the starting line-up.

On a wet, wild night in Govan, Andrew Shinnie came in to replace Caleb Chukwuemeka for the visitors.

Lowry had the first attempt on goal in the third minute, taking a pass from attacker Fashion Sakala but his low drive from outside the box was saved by Livi keeper Max Stryjek.

At the other end moments later, McGregor’s poor clearance allowed Livingston’s Odin Bailey an effort on goal from distance but the Gers keeper gathered comfortably.

The home side continued in their struggle to break down an organised Livi defence.

In the 25th minute Wright was set up by Lowry but after beating Stryjek with his low drive he watched Lions defender Jack Fitzwater clear away to safety a yard from the line.

Then some fancy footwork by Lowry on the left-hand side of the box allowed him to slide the ball across goal but the teenager found no takers, to the groans of the home fans.

Rangers were coming closer. Sakala got on the end of James Tavernier’s driven cross six yards out but Stryjek blocked with his leg for a corner which came to nothing and just before the break Wright failed to capitalise on a cross from Sakala just yards from goal.

Rangers continued to struggle after the break. Striker Cedric Itten headed a Tavernier cross past the post, and Sakala shot straight at Livingston keeper Stryjek.

Van Bronckhorst rung the changes, bringing on Kemar Roofe and Arfield for Itten and Sands just before the hour mark with the boss looking for a spark.

Rangers continued to press and they got their reward with 15 minutes remaining when Arfield looped a cross from Barisic over Stryjek and into the far side of the net.

The Gers fans exploded in joy but mostly relief as the home side carried on to take three valuable league points.