Kilmarnock hold Rangers to frustrating draw
Steven Gerrard’s team could go 10 points behind Celtic if the Hoops win on Sunday
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard during his team’s draw at Ibrox Stadium. Photograph: PA
Rangers 1 Kilmarnock 1
Alfredo Morelos grabbed his 29th goal of the season but there was fresh frustration for Rangers as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Kilmarnock.
The Colombian rescued a point for his side at Ibrox as he cancelled out Conor McAleny’s first-half goal.
But Steven Gerrard’s team now risk falling 10 points behind Celtic if the Hoops can win at Dundee on Sunday.
Killie had crumbled 5-0 here in a Scottish Cup tie last month after having keeper Daniel Bachmann sent off.
But with a full compliment they were able to sit in and heap more angst on a Light Blues line-up still reeling from their Scottish Cup exit to Aberdeen in midweek.
Gerrard made four changes to the side dumped out by Derek McInnes’ Dons as Nikola Katic, Steven Davis, Andy Halliday and Lassana Coulibaly came in.
Killie, meanwhile, were forced to change their line-up just three minutes in as Eamonn Brophy’s hamstring went after he sped past Katic to fire into the side-netting.
Clarke turned to McAleny but the change made no difference to the Rugby Park boss’ gameplan as his side sat in and dared Rangers to break them down.
Davis, back into the home line-up in the number 10 role, almost provided the cutting edge the Light Blues have desperately lacked of late as he cut past Gary Dicker but Bachmann palmed his shot over.
Gerrard was left fuming by referee Steven McLean’s failure to spot a foul in the build-up to Florian Kamberi’s equaliser for Hibernian last Friday and the Ibrox manager was just as angry this time when Greg Aitken waved away strong penalty appeals after a Morelos strike hit Kirk Broadfoot’s outstretched arm.
And like the Easter Road incident it proved a decisive call as Kilmarnock grabbed the lead.
Dicker spotted the Rangers defence sleeping as McAleny was allowed to drift into space.
The Irishman’s ball over the top was inch-perfect and the striker calmly strode past Allan McGregor to finish after the keeper strangely wandered into no-man’s land.
Gers tried to up the tempo but again looked incapable of breaking down a packed defence.
Instead it was Killie who almost struck again in first-half stoppage time as Alan Power dragged just wide.
Frustration was rising both on and off the pitch as the whistle went for the change of ends, with Morelos pushing Broadfoot to the ground as the home support booed Gerrard’s team down the tunnel.
Andy Halliday and Daniel Candeias failed to return for the restart, with Eros Grezda making his return from injury alongside Borna Barisic.
That made little difference and Gerrard rolled the dice again on 64 minutes as he swapped Coulibaly for Jermain Defoe.
But it was Morelos who fired Gers level seconds later as he collected James Tavernier’s pass and turned past Stuart Findlay before beating Bachmann at his near post.
The mood round Ibrox had suddenly changed from despair to hope.
But the groans were not gone for long. Ryan Kent led an 88th-minute breakaway but Grezda’s pass forced Defoe away from goal and his shot squirmed wide.
Five minutes of stoppage time were added but instead of a finding a winner, Gers were lucky to finish with 11 men as Connor Goldson crudely chopped down Liam Millar to prevent him darting free into the box.