Rangers manager Philippe Clement vowed to do “more business” after heading into the Scottish Premiership break with victory over Kilmarnock.
Ross McCausland fired the hosts in front after Kyle Vassell was denied when clean through on the Rangers goal, and Abdallah Sima’s stunning chest touch and volley added a quick second before the break.
Danny Armstrong converted a VAR-awarded penalty following John Souttar’s handball – the first Rangers have conceded in 75 league games – but Todd Cantwell restored the two-goal advantage.
Rangers, beaten by Celtic on Saturday, are eight points behind the league leaders with two games in hand and gave new forward signing Fabio Silva a run out as a substitute. Kilmarnock, fourth, trail Hearts by five points.
“We’re going to do some more business,” said Clement. “Everybody in the club is aligned around that and we have now one month to do the good business.”
Kilmarnock counterpart Derek McInnes, meanwhile, hopes to sign a striker.
“You can do good work in January,” he said. “There’s two or three things been identified.
“I actually don’t think I’ve ever been in a transfer window where I’ve not been looking for a striker. We’ll try and bring a striker in or a forward player in that can maybe compliment what we’ve got.
“It’s free agents and the loan market that we’ll look to try and exploit. I just don’t want anybody to leave.”
The Vassell chance prompted Kilmarnock’s best spell of the game, though that was their best opening.
And it was against the run of play that Rangers took the lead. Cyriel Dessers, having gone close with a shot and a header, swept a superb pass from halfway in behind David Watson for McCausland to chase and finish.
Then came Sima’s moment. The winger received Connor Goldson’s pass on the 18-yard line, controlled, spun away from Joe Wright and lashed a shot past the helpless Will Dennis.
The half-time scoreline was harsh on Kilmarnock and they needed a response early in the second period. They probed and when Rory McKenzie’s delivery struck Souttar’s arm, referee John Beaton reviewed at the monitor and pointed to the spot – the first Premiership penalty Rangers have conceded since January 2022. Armstrong scored confidently.
But the reprieve was short lived. Ridvan Yilmaz’s cross from the left perfectly met the near-post run of Cantwell and the midfielder applied the finish.
Rangers’ first signing of the January transfer window, Fabio Silva, came on for his debut in place of Dessers and James Tavernier, twice, and Cantwell tested Dennis in the final half hour.
Player of the match – Abdallah Sima (Rangers)
Sima shows Rangers what they’ll be missing – analysis
With his 15th goal of the season, Sima demonstrated what Rangers will be missing when he goes to the African Cup of Nations with Senegal.
That tournament runs from 13 January to 11 February, meaning Sima could be unavailable until Rangers’ match with St Johnstone on 17 February.
The performance and result allowed Rangers to get their weekend disappointment out of their system and go into the winter break with a morale-boosting three points.
After winning the first meeting of the sides on the opening day of the season, Kilmarnock once again showed their ability to restrict Rangers for long spells. If the passing from the hosts was not precise, there was usually a Killie boot or head in the way.
Going forward, the visitors were adept at getting into the right areas – particularly with the Vassell chance – but what will frustrate manager Derek McInnes is losing the third goal so soon after getting back into the contest at 2-1. A late Liam Polworth shot would have made for an interesting finale had it not gone just wide.
What they said
Rangers manager Philippe Clement: “It was an exceptional goal [by Sima]. The finish was really world class. I give [McCausland] a lot of minutes because he deserves it, he performs, he works for the team. He’s growing and growing.
“I don’t think that John Souttar can do much more or much less with his arm than he did. I hope there comes clarity for the second part of the season. It’s important that there’s clarity about what is handball and what is not handball.”
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes: “It felt so harsh for us [going behind]. The second goal came from nowhere. From a defensive point of view, it’s difficult to be too critical of that.
“We just wanted to win the second half. We get ourselves a goal back. What we needed to do then was just be a wee bit more street-wise. The third goal is the goal where we’ve really not defended it well. We kept going and credit to them.”