Kilmarnock stun Beale's new look Rangers in Premiership opener

The Ibrox side handed debuts to six new signings at Rugby Park but were undone by Brad Lyons' second half goal.

Kilmarnock stun new look Rangers with opening day Premiership win at Rugby Park SNS Group

Rangers’ cinch Premiership title challenge suffered the earliest of blows with a shock 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock in the opening day of the season.

Michael Beale’s disjointed side had laboured in the first half at Rugby Park and there was no improvement after the break before they were stunned by Brad Lyons’ counter after 65 minutes.

The 26-year-old Northern Irishman pounced inside the box to fire the home side ahead and in the end it was enough to keep the three points in Ayrshire.

The defeat was a huge setback for Light Blues boss who has signed nine new players so far.

Rangers' new signing Kieren Dowell was frustrated by a rigid Killie. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Beale knows the margin for error over 38 games in the traditional two-horse title race in Scotland is slim and there is little time for ironing things out on the training ground – the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Servette is at Ibrox on Wednesday night.

Champions Celtic began their campaign earlier in the day with a 4-2 win over Ross County at Parkhead so there was immediate pressure on the visitors to get the win, but there was a lack of cohesion in both teams, perhaps understandably.

Derek McInnes’ side had only four players from last season in the starting line-up – stand-in captain Lyons, Danny Armstrong, David Watson and Lewis Mayo, who was signed on a permanent deal from Rangers after a loan spell.

Of Beale’s new boys; Jack Butland, Kieran Dowell, Sam Lammers, Abdallah Sima and Cyriel Dessers made their competitive debuts and Brazilian striker Danilo would come on later.

Killie, with four Viaplay Cup games under their belt already, made it difficult for the Govan side, nullifying most of the threat.

In the 28th minute, backtracking Mayo brilliantly took the ball off Dessers’ toe as the former Cremonese striker raced through from a Sima pass but the offside flag was up.

Killie keeper Will Dennis, on loan from Bournemouth, dived bravely inside his busy six-yard box to gather a loose ball from a James Tavernier corner before he saved a decent low drive from Dessers.

The 23-year-old then tipped a powerful John Lundstram drive over the crossbar for a corner which he comfortably clutched out of the air, but it was a relatively quiet 45 minutes for him and the Killie defence.

Rangers tried to press with more vigour after the break but the home side remained resolute in defence and increasingly confident when they broke.

On the hour mark, seconds after Dowell headed wide following a corner, he was replaced along with Dessers.

Todd Cantwell, a surprise omission, and Danilo came on for Rangers while for Killie, Marley Watkins made way for club captain Kyle Vassell.

And then Killie took the lead. Rangers defender John Souttar failed to deal with a long throw-in from Watson and Lyons swept the ball past Butland from six yards.

Minutes later, with the Light Blues in disarray, Butland did well to save a ferocious drive from Kyle Magennis before Armstrong curled a shot just wide.

Ryan Jack came on for Lundstram and Kemar Roofe replaced Lammers as Rangers, in some desperation, tried everything to rescue a point at least but Dennis was well-protected for the 90 minutes and the six minutes of added time.

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