Last updated : 05 December 2002 By Grandmaster Suck
Rangers 4 (Arveladze 3 {9, 17, 46}, Ferguson {6})
Livingston 3 (Zarate 2 {49, 86}, Wilson {72})

Attendance 45,992

Rangers scraped through by the skin of their teeth at Ibrox tonight, winning 4-3 against Livingston after leading by four clear goals early in the second-half.

It was a state of affairs that seemed unthinkable as the Light Blues outclassed their opponents throughout an opening half when the football displayed was as
fine as anything seen this season, yet the sound of the final whistle brought a crescendo of booing from the 45,000 spectators present.

Rangers made just the one change from Sunday, with Michael Mols replacing Mikel Arteta.

There was almost a stunning start in twelve seconds when Michael Mols released Ronald De Boer through the middle only for Livingston goalkeeper Javier Sanchez Broto to block the effort with his legs.

The opening goal was however only delayed until the sixth minute, a Barry Ferguson free-kick from some 23 yards finding the net.

Rangers certainly seemed in the mood - three minutes later it was 2-0 when Shota Arveladze's diving header from a Neil McCann cross left Broto helpless.

It was one-way traffic as the Ibrox men totally overwhelmed their opponents - a delightful turn and shot by Mols from a McCann cross in sixteen minutes
forcing Broto to punch over, but within sixty seconds it was 3-0 when Arveladze headed home a Ricksen corner.

Former Ranger Gary Bollan received the first yellow card of the evening for a foul on Arthur Numan in 24 minutes, a booking that would prove to be costly later on.

It should have been 4-0 in 33 minutes when a delightful Ricksen pass found Mols who cleverly outwitted Marvin Andrews only to shoot wildly over the

Rangers continued to overwhelm Livingston with the interval approaching - twice Arveladze came close to completing his hat-trick, firstly when a 25-yard
left-foot drive was inches wide of the target, then with a glancing header from a Ricksen cross that ended on the roof of the net.

Even Lorenzo Amoruso tested Broto with a 25-yard free-kick that struck the 'keeper on the chest in 37 minutes - and in Rangers' very next attack a De Boer
cross found Mols whose net-bound shot was cleared off the line by Bollan.

The appearance of Paul Gascoigne during the interval break brought a massive welcome from the crowd following a first-half when the 3-0 scoreline did not
even begin to reflect Ibrox superiority, and within seconds of the restart it was FOUR when a De Boer cross was cleverly dummied by Mols, enabling Arveladze
to complete his hat-trick with a low left-foot shot from eighteen yards.

Livvie had made a double change at half-time, and it was substitute Rolando Zarate who reduced the deficit in 49 minutes with a 25-yard free-kick that - whilst perfectly executed - found Stefan Klos exposed (not for the first time) at his right-hand post from a dead-ball situation.

Rangers came close to restoring their four-goal advantage within three minutes when Arveladze's 25-yard drive from a Mols pass was fisted clear by Broto.

There was a welcome return for both Christian Nerlinger and Peter Lovenkrands in 63 minutes, replacing Barry Ferguson and Ronald De Boer, and seven minutes later Maurice Ross replaced Arthur Numan.

Rangers had clearly switched off by this time, confident that the game was won, and no doubt with one eye on Saturday. No doubt too the introduction of three substitutions upset the rhythm of a team who could - and should - have been eight up.

Livingston reduced the gap to just two goals in 72 minutes when a delightful move involving Zarate and David Bingham ended with substitute Barry Wilson
rifling home a twenty-yard drive.

The crowd were far from happy, but within two minutes the visitors were reduced to ten men when Gary Bollan received his second yellow-card for a body-check on Shota Arveladze.

Nevertheless even against ten men Rangers could not re-establish control over a side they had been threatening to overwhelm earlier.

Unbelievable as it must seem, with just four minutes remaining Nerlinger lost possession in midfield allowing Wilson to gain possession and send a slide-rule pass forward to Zarate who squeezed the ball over the advancing Klos to make it 4-3.

Rangers were now hanging on for grim death - utterly ludicrous as that must seem to anyone who witnessed the first-half of play.

Ricksen might have made the game safe (again) in the 88th minute only to see his drive turned wide by Broto, but in the last seconds of injury time Ibrox held its' collective breath when Livvie were awarded a free-kick some 25 yards out. The prospect of throwing away a four-goal lead and two crucial points was all
too real.

Thankfully, Barry Wilson's effort was both wild and wide, and with the final whistle seconds later the relief amongst the spectators was as tangible as was
the utter disgust at the second-half performance of certain players who should hang their heads in shame.

This night's display was an absolute disgrace.

Manager Alex McLeish afterwards was characteristically blunt:

"We were sloppy and switched off in the second-half. The players will be as annoyed as I am. They are proud men; they know they let themselves down. 4-0 didn't flatter us - but we tried to showboat instead of keeping it simple.

"How many goals of a lead do you need to put opponents away?"

Earlier on in the proceedings the fans were chanting: "Bring on the Celtic".

Not on the evidence of the second-half.

RANGERS Klos; Muscat, Moore, Amoruso, Numan (Ross 70); Ricksen, Ferguson (Nerlinger 63), De Boer (Lovenkrands 63), McCann; Mols, Arveladze
UNUSED SUBS McGregor, Hughes

LIVINGSTON Broto; Brinquin, Rubio, Andrews, Bollan; Makel, O'Brien (Quino 70), Cherif; Camacho (Wilson 45), Bingham, Dadi (Zarate 45)
UNUSED SUBS McEwan, Bahoken

REFEREE Dougie McDonald