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Rangers 3-0 Livingston: Philippe Clement's side go three points off Celtic

Rangers have given their fans "confidence", says manager Philippe Clement, after they cut the gap to Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic to three points by dispatching bottom club Livingston.

There was a sense of expectation at Ibrox before kick-off after their Old Firm rivals' draw at Aberdeen earlier in the day, which gave Rangers the chance to go within a win of top spot with a game in hand.

The forlorn visitors - now winless in 16 league games - showed resolve to restrict Rangers, but Fabio Silva's first goal for the club and Rabbi Matondo's curler both went in off an opponent late in the first half to ease the anxiety.

Todd Cantwell's swept finish at the end of a searing move gave the impression of a side in control as Rangers ramped up the pressure in the title race that looked unlikely before the Belgian's arrival.

Clement recognised a change in the support from when he started out in his role, saying they showed patience with his side despite craving a statement-making victory.

"It's a big difference from the beginning," he said. "The first day I stepped in here, you felt impatience from the fans. Everybody was nervous. Now everybody has confidence in the players, the players feel that too.

"I'm not busy with Celtic or other teams. I'm only busy with winning games. I'll be busy with ranking teams at the end of the season. We still have a lot of work to do.

"I want momentum all season. Because momentum - the word 'moment' is there - it's a short period. I want this level all season, every game. I don't want momentum, I want consistency."

Gusts of wind in Govan were the hosts' biggest asset in the opening stages as Shamal George fumbled at balls into the box, before doing well to scoop out a James Tavernier corner that looked destined for the back of the net.

A resolute visiting defence forced frustration in an expectant crowd, but Silva's deflected volley from a corner lifted weight off their shoulders and paved the way for Matondo to add a second before the break.

There may have been some fortune in their first-half goals but, in a title tussle of fine margins, Rangers were content just to head into the break with a comfortable lead to build on.

That confidence showed in the link-up between Ross McCausland and Cantwell in a moment of real quality, with the latter's cool finish adding gloss to a gritty performance.

McCausland's header in behind and an audacious Silva overhead kick could have made their victory more sparkling, though capitalising on the champions' slip-up was the only matter of importance for Clement's challengers.

Player of the match - Fabio Silva (Rangers)

Rangers do their job as clock winds down for Livi - analysis

Will this be a showing that will live long in Rangers' fans memory? Probably not.

But after Celtic dropped points for the sixth time this season in the early kick-off, the vast majority of those inside Ibrox would have taken any kind of victory to narrow the gap at the top.

The hosts still had their moments and Clement was able to flex some muscle in making six changes, displaying the options that he has at his disposal in what is set to be a chaotic and crucial second half of the season.

Silva had his best performance since moving north from Wolves, while Oscar Cortes got on to show the type of energy he'll hope to give his new side in the final third.

For 40 minutes, Livingston were rigid and showed the "fire in their belly" that David Martindale insisted he and his staff still hold despite their turgid run of form.

But that fire didn't burn bright at the opposite end of the park, registering a xG of absolute zero.

It's the second time since the end of December that Livingston have failed to register a single shot of target, albeit both against the Old Firm.

Not many would have expected them to get anything from Ibrox, but with the clock winding down and their position at the bottom of the table looking more certain by the week, every game counts if they are to beat the drop.

What they said

Rangers manager Philippe Clement: "We see more and more the football we want to see. That's important. It's been a really pleasing afternoon.

"I see a team growing. I see more and more the team I want to see. We're not at our maximum, for sure [we're not]. I want all my players on their toes all the time and not thinking about other teams.

Livingston manager David Martindale: "I think there's a decision for VAR and Connor Goldson catches David Carson high. He's not meant to catch our player, but we were really surprised their goal stood.

"We can only affect one game at time just now. We're all in this together and we'll be doing everything we can to keep Livingston in the Premiership."

What's next?

It's Rangers turn to take on managerless Aberdeen as they meet at Ibrox on Tuesday (20:00 GMT), while Livingston travel to fourth-placed Kilmarnock on Wednesday (19:45).