SPL

Rangers stay top after fighting back to beat Kilmarnock

By Sports Desk February 28, 2024

Rangers maintained their advantage over Celtic at the top of the cinch Premiership but only after a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Killie wide-man Danny Armstrong scored from the spot in the 11th minute of an energetic first half and Derek McInnes’ side were worth their interval lead.

The Gers had to dig deep and captain James Tavernier levelled in the 55th minute with a trademark free-kick before midfielder Tom Lawrence netted with a fine finish just four minutes later as the visitors reasserted themselves.

With 10 league games remaining – five before the split – Philippe Clement’s side are two points ahead of Celtic, who demolished Dundee 7-1 at Parkhead to keep hot on the heels of the Govan men.

The visitors had racked up 10 wins in a row with a 5-0 win over Hearts at the weekend, including a 3-1 win over Killie on January 2, the only defeat for the Ayrshire outfit in their last 14 outings.

Clement had noted the vagaries of the artificial surface and again tinkered with his squad to suit, making three changes with Borna Barisic, Ross McCausland and Fabio Silva coming back in while the home side were unchanged.

Silva had the first effort on goal after five minutes, his close-range shot deflected for a corner from which Rangers defender Connor Goldson’s header was pushed behind by Killie keeper Will Dennis.

Liam Donnelly came close with a header at the other end as Killie responded but moments later John Lundstram blocked an Armstrong cross with his arm and referee David Dickinson pointed to the spot.

Armstrong confidently beat Jack Butland with his penalty and yet another upset was on the cards.

Clement’s men appeared ill at ease as the route-one first-half unfolded further and Kilmarnock continued chasing and harrying.

There was some controversy in the 40th minute when Mohamed Diomande appeared to prevent Liam Polworth from cleanly latching on to his short pass, but Dickinson played on and was not required by VAR to check his pitchside monitor, to the ire of the home players and supporters.

Cyriel Dessers and Ridvan Yilmaz replaced Silva and Barisic for the start of the second half – Dujon Sterling would replace McCausland – but Butland soon had to make a fine one-handed save to prevent Matty Kennedy stroking in a second from six yards out.

Kilmarnock paid for that miss after defender Lewis Mayo fouled Lawrence 25 yards from goal, with Tavernier stepping up to send his curling shot past the diving Dennis.

Rain continued to swirl around the ground as Rangers went for the second, which came when Lawrence pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box and guided his shot low past Dennis and into the far corner for his first goal of the season, sparking wild scenes of delight in the stand behind the goal which housed the visiting fans, some of whom spilled out.

The game had swung towards the rejuvenated Ibrox men and Dessers hit the bar from a Tavernier corner.

In the 70th minute, Oscar Cortes limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem to be replaced by Scott Wright and the game was still in the balance.

Diomande curled a shot past the far post from 16 yards as play sped from end to end and Dessers got tangled up as he tried to capitalise on a mistake by Killie centre-back Stuart Findlay.

Six minutes were added on but there were no more goals which meant a crucial three points for Rangers, but Celtic’s stunning win over Dundee confirmed there is still plenty left in the title race.

Related items

  • Germany 5-1 Scotland: Five-star hosts make emphatic start at Euro 2024 Germany 5-1 Scotland: Five-star hosts make emphatic start at Euro 2024

    Germany enjoyed a wonderful start to their home Euro 2024 campaign on Friday as they thrashed 10-man Scotland 5-1 in Munich.

    A huge contingent of Scotland fans packed into the Allianz Arena in hope of witnessing their country's first major tournament victory since Euro 1996, but they were stunned into silence as Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala put Germany two goals up inside 19 minutes.

    Ryan Porteous was then sent off for a dismal lunge on Ilkay Gundogan shortly before half-time, allowing Kai Havertz to kill the game as a contest from the penalty spot. 

    Niclas Fullkrug came off the bench to score a tremendous fourth for Julian Nagelsmann's hosts, though Antonio Rudiger's own goal gave Scotland's supporters some small comfort late on.

    However, Emre Can – a late call-up to the squad – added further gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time, giving Germany the biggest ever win in an opening match at the Euros. 

    Germany needed just 10 minutes to go ahead, with Angus Gunn tipping Wirtz's low strike onto the post and in after Joshua Kimmich found the Bayer Leverkusen star unmarked on the edge of the area.

    Within nine further minutes, Germany were two up. Gundogan slipped Havertz into the area, and he kept his cool to tee up Musiala for a slammed finish high into the net.

    Gunn made a reflex save to keep out Gundogan's header, but Porteous caught the Barcelona midfielder with a high challenge from the rebound, causing referee Clement Turpin to award a penalty and brandish a red card following VAR review. 

    Havertz stepped up to take the spot-kick in first-half stoppage time, striking it straight down the middle as Gunn dived left to make it a case of damage limitation for Scotland. 

    Rudiger's 35-yard strike had Gunn at full stretch early in the second half, then Wirtz sent a half-volley over when presented with a golden chance at the back post.

    The outstanding Musiala was involved again as Germany got their fourth after 68 minutes, linking up with Gundogan before Fullkrug blasted his finish into the top-right corner.

    Scotland pulled one back with three minutes left as Rudiger put through his own net after a deep free-kick caused a goalmouth scramble, but Can restored Germany's four-goal cushion at the death, curling a 20-yard strike out of Gunn's reach and into the bottom-right corner.

    Wirtz and Musiala Germany's shining lights

    With an average age of 29 years and 22 days, Nagelsmann named Germany's oldest starting lineup for a World Cup or Euros match since a 1-1 draw with Romania at Euro 2000 (30 years, 86 days).

    However, in Wirtz and Musiala, Germany also started two players aged 21 or under at the Euros for the first time since 2004, when Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger faced Czechia. 

    Their two young guns led the way.

    Wirtz's strike made him the youngest player to ever score the opening goal at a European Championship (21 years, 42 days), but Musiala – just over two months Wirtz's senior – refused to be upstaged as he capped a flowing move with a powerful finish for 2-0.

    This is the first time two players aged 21 or under have scored for the same team in a Euros match.

    Porteous red caps miserable Scotland start

    Scotland arrived in Munich targeting their first Euros victory since 1996, having only won two of their previous nine matches at the tournament (two draws, five defeats).

    The gulf in quality between the sides was soon apparent, though, as Germany became just the second team to net three first-half goals in a Euros match. France have previously done so twice, scoring three against Belgium in 1984 and four versus Iceland in 2016.

    Things barely improved in the second half, with Scotland conceding at least five goals in a competitive match for the first time since November 2003, when they were beaten 6-0 by the Netherlands in a Euro 2004 qualifier. 

    While this was always likely to be Scotland's toughest assignment, they will also feel the consequences of their display against Switzerland, with Porteous suspended.

    He is the first Scotland player to be sent off at a major tournament since Craig Burley versus Morocco at the 1998 World Cup.

  • Euro 2024 social round-up: Mou and Fergie link up, Pickford's quiz and Pavard the photographer Euro 2024 social round-up: Mou and Fergie link up, Pickford's quiz and Pavard the photographer

    Euro 2024 hosts Germany got off to a flying start as they comprehensively dispatched Scotland 5-1 on Friday.

    Goals from Florian Wirtz, Jamal Musiala, Kai Havertz and Niclas Fullkrug blew Scotland away at the Allianz Arena.

    But while the football entertained, there was also plenty of action on social media.

    Here's a pick of the best posts.

    The special... two?

    Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson enjoyed a great rivalry on the touchline down the years, but there was no sign of that as the two watched on from the stands in Munich.

    Unfortunately for Ferguson, Scotland were on the receiving end of a hammering.

    We can only wonder what these two greats had to say about Scotland's sorry performance, though surely they will have been full of praise for Germany.

    Honouring a great

    Franz Beckenbauer passed away in January, and ahead of the opening game, his wife Heidi led a touching tribute to der Kaiser.

    Moral support

    Nathan Patterson is not fit to feature for Scotland, but the Everton full-back has travelled out to Germany to support his team-mates.

    Unfortunately for Scotland, it didn't quite work out, and Patterson will be needing to provide plenty of moral support after their heavy defeat in Munich.

    Pickford gets quizzed

    England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was fulfilling his media duties on Friday, and he stopped by to answer some fan questions ahead of the Three Lions' opener against Serbia.

    Pickford was quizzed on how he copes with the pressure as kick-off approaches - "Enjoy the moment", he said - while revealing former England shot-stopper Joe Hart, who retired last month, has served as an inspiration.

    Young guns exciting Schweinsteiger 

    Bastian Schweinsteiger helped Germany to World Cup glory in 2014, so it feels like he is pretty well placed to pass judgement on up and coming stars.

    And when asked on X for the players he was most excited to see in action at Euro 2024, the former Bayern Munich midfielder picked out Florian Wirtz, Cole Palmer and Rafael Leao.

    Wirtz certainly delivered, as he starred in Germany's big win over Scotland. Will Palmer and Leao be equally as impressive for England and Portugal respectively?

    Picture perfect

    Olivier Giroud is one handsome devil, so it's no surprise that he's a photographer's dream.

    That being said, it's rare that the person behind the camera is one of his team-mates, but Giroud could only smile, and offer a cheeky pose, as Benjamin Pavard sneakily grabbed a camera and tried to get the perfect shot while the France number nine was holding a press conference.

  • Spain youngsters Yamal and Williams 'have a gift from God' – Luis de la Fuente Spain youngsters Yamal and Williams 'have a gift from God' – Luis de la Fuente

    Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams "have a gift from God", so says Spain boss Luis de la Fuente.

    Yamal and Williams are among a number of exciting talents that De la Fuente has at his disposal heading into Euro 2024.

    Spain, who have won the European Championships on three occasions, face Croatia in their opening Group B game on Saturday.

    They head into the tournament in fine form, having thrashed Andorra and Northern Ireland 5-0 and 5-1 respectively in pre-tournament friendlies, and in Lamal and Williams, have two of LaLiga's most promising young attackers.

    "They are young players, especially Lamine, he's a young boy, with incredible talent that only the chosen ones have," De la Fuente told reporters.

    "They have a gift from God, very few players have these qualities."

    Barcelona teenager Lamal has been involved in five goals in his seven appearances for his country, though revealed this week that he will be doing his school homework during the tournament.

    "We're trying to treat the situation normally, but also trying to explain by being humble he will develop so much more," said De la Fuente, who confirmed defender Aymeric Laporte will not be available on Saturday.

    "If there are bad moments things can fall away fast and there's huge criticism. That goes at his club as well.

    "We're enforcing the education and training from his club. They are special footballers, Nico too, that makes them different from the rest."

    That being said, there is no guarantee that either Lamal or Williams will start against Croatia in Berlin.

    "You might take it for granted that Nico and Lamine play tomorrow, you might think it's a surprise if they don't, but it wouldn't be for me," added the coach.

    Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, meanwhile, backed Josko Gvardiol, who is likely to play at left-back, to stand up to any attacker he may face.

    "Josko has had a really good season at Manchester City, he's one of our key players," said Dalic.

    "He's capable of stopping any attacker on the Spain team, he's got it all. I hope he will stop Pedri, Yamal and all the others."

    Shoot-outs excluded, Spain have lost only two of their last 22 matches at the Euros (W13 D7), and that was against Croatia and Italy in 2016.

    They have reached the knockout stages in six of their last seven appearances, with the only exception coming in 2004.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.