Rangers have moved to within three points of Celtic in the Premiership after a convincing victory over Livingston at Ibrox. On a day when there was another twist in the title race, Philippe Clement’s side maintained their momentum to reduce the arrears at the top of the table once again.

Fabio Silva and Rabbi Matondo netted in quick succession near the end of the first half to secure the points for Rangers. Todd Cantwell made it three just after the break as he capped a Man of the Match showing. In truth, there were no failures for Rangers. This was another afternoon of many positives for Clement.

Rangers maintain title momentum

The ovation that Clement’s side received as they walked out of the tunnel and the roar that greeted the first whistle told their own story. Ibrox knew the significance of this fixture. It was, quite simply, a must win for Rangers. After events at Pittodrie, they had to take advantage and take another step in the right direction. The importance of this 90 minutes cannot be understated.

The focus for Rangers will always be on themselves. Clement will warn against any complacency and the one game at a time mantra will not be deviated from. Events on the other side of the city cannot go unnoticed, though, and Celtic’s draw with Aberdeen opened the door for Rangers. It was an opportunity that they made the most of and top spot is now within their sights ahead of the visit of the Dons on Tuesday evening. What a statement it would be if Clement’s side were to move into pole position before Celtic make the trip to Easter Road the following evening.

The Old Firm dynamic has shifted and the feel good factor is with Rangers. The game in hand at home to Ross County speaks for itself in terms of importance. The title race is very much on. Ibrox knew it beforehand and it felt it at the final whistle.

Margin of victory could have been greater

The first 40 minutes of this one were frustrating for Rangers. Too many crosses were swung in and cleared, too many moves broke down prematurely – either through wayward passes or poor decision making – and Rangers were laboured at times. It was not the script that supporters expected. Come the interval, it was a case of job done and game won for Clement’s side.

A plethora of chances were passed up. It was a case of attack versus defence and the Livingston goal lived a charmed existence. Ryan Jack and Ross McCausland had early opportunities, as did Matondo, before James Tavernier and John Lundstram tried their luck from distance. By the time the opener arrived, McCausland and Matondo had come close again and Rangers more than merited their advantage as Silva converted from close range. When Matondo doubled the lead, cutting in from the left and angling a deflected effort into the far corner, that was that in terms of the outcome.

It was then a case of how many Rangers would win by. Cantwell made it 3-0 as he converted from close range after a McCausland cross. At that stage, Rangers were just two goals worse off than Celtic in terms of goal difference. That is how it ended and that was the only negative, if you can call it that. The points were ultimately the most important thing for Rangers.

Silva opens his scoring account

So much of the discussion surrounding the transfer window centred on Rangers’ forward line. Or, more specifically, Clement’s options through the middle. As the clock ticked down on Thursday evening and supporters expressed their concerns about the Ibrox attack, it was lost on many that work had already been done some time before. The arrival of Silva on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers was almost forgotten amid the clamour for another centre-forward to be signed.

This was only Silva’s fourth appearance and just his second start following his arrival a month ago. It seems strange to say, but there was a feeling that the Portuguese needed a goal here. Thankfully, he got it. Time will tell if this proves to be the kick-start for his Rangers career.

Silva has shown flashes in his previous outings. There have been neat touches and moments of vision but it remained to be seen if he could finish. When Connor Goldson nodded the ball into his path from a corner, Silva made no mistake from six yards out. He was off and running.

Silva is far from a penalty box poacher. His movement and link play is intelligent and he drops into pockets of space to get involved and bring others into play. A deft backheel that saw him combine with Todd Cantwell and set Matondo clear was a sign of his vision.

The appreciation of the home crowd would have been heartening for Silva as he replaced with 15 minutes remaining. Clement had a word in his ear before he took his seat. It would surely have been a well done message.

Clement has pleasing puzzles to solve

Large swathes of this season have been spent discussing Rangers’ injury issues and conversations have centred on those who have not been available rather than those who were fit and ready for action. Clement still has problems in that regard and the absences of Abdallah Sima, Kemar Roofe and Danilo remain a real cause for concern. The squad is now deeper and stronger than it has been at various stages of the campaign, though, and Clement must now make the most of it. He has stressed the importance of utilising each member of the group that is at his disposal and he was able to make six changes to the side that started against St Mirren without weakening the team.

Dujon Sterling missed out with a muscle issue and Leon Balogun had to be replaced in the first half after suffering a head knock. It would be too much to ask for Rangers to have a clean bill of health, it seems. This was a valuable afternoon for the likes of Borna Barisic and Ryan Jack as they returned to the starting line-up. Both got an hour before being replaced by Ridvan Yilmaz and Tom Lawrence.

Clement has had many puzzles, as he calls it, to solve over the course of his reign. His headaches are these days welcome and very different in nature as he deliberates over those who are fit and who are in form. Rangers are in a good place right now.

Cortes makes his Ibrox bow

The reaction in some quarters to the arrival of Cortes was perhaps underwhelming and unfair. The Colombian was the only deal done on deadline day. Thankfully, the feelings of frustration have dissipated since then and this was an afternoon to remember for the Colombian. As soon as Rangers moved three goals clear, Clement signalled for those that were warming up to get stripped for action. This was Cortes’ moment and he was given a warm reception from the Ibrox crowd.

Supporters had been given a first sight of Mohamed Diomande before the game as he was introduced and waved to the fans. His lack of action in recent weeks denied him a bow at the first time of asking and Clement will be careful with the Ivorian as he works his way up to full fitness. Cortes, on the other hand, was good to go from the off as he replaced Matondo on the left side.

His turn of foot was evident, as was his eagerness to be direct and to take the game to Livingston. A neat cross was almost rewarded with an assist as Silva pulled an acrobatic effort just wide.