Rangers have maintained their lead over Celtic in the Premiership title race after coming from behind to beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. Second half strikes from James Tavernier and Tom Lawrence won it for Philippe Clement's side.

Kilmarnock had gone ahead through Danny Armstrong after he scored from the spot after just 12 minutes. The hosts couldn't see it out, though, as Rangers produced a rousing comeback after the interval.

A statement of intent victory

The focus is on themselves rather than others. That is the message that Clement has hammered into his players, that he has reinforced in every media interview. Sometimes, though, it is easier said than done. That was the case at half-time at Rugby Park. The fact that Rangers were trailing was the main concern for Clement and the mood of the away support would not have been helped by the news from Parkhead. Celtic didn’t just have the win wrapped up, they had hit the goal trail.

This had felt like a potentially defining fixture for some time. Having taken care of Hearts in emphatic fashion at the weekend, Rangers had to follow it up here. Clement spoke about a victory here being a ‘statement’ if it could be achieved. The fans knew it as well.

The scenes at the final whistle said it all. This was not just another three points, not just another win. This was a show of strength and a sign of the mentality of Clement’s side. The importance of events in Ayrshire will become even more evident in the fullness of time in this title race.

A game of two halves for Rangers

The first goal went Kilmarnock’s way but the first chances fell to Rangers. Connor Goldson saw his header from a Tavernier corner well saved by Will Dennis but there was a strong feeling that it was a bad miss. If the defender had directed his header either side, it would surely have been a goal. That opening had materialised after Dennis made a low block to deny Fabio Silva at the near post.

That was as close as Clement’s side came in the first half. Oscar Cortes forced Dennis into action from distance and John Souttar tried to find the far corner after advancing into the area. A second Goldson header never threatened the target.

Few would have seen the turnaround coming at the break. Tavernier sparked it in stunning fashion and Lawrence completed it to put the visitors ahead. The ball broke inside the area and the Welshman stroked it into the far corner with a cool, clinical finish.

Rangers still needed a third goal just to be sure. Mohamed Diomande almost provided it with a curling effort that was agonisingly wide. When Cyriel Dessers had a chance to clinch it, he waited and waited and was eventually denied.

Tavernier the Rangers hero

Who else? It just had to be Tav. When Rangers needed a spark, when they were in desperate need of some inspiration, it was the captain that stood up to be counted once again. Lawrence won a free-kick in a dangerous area and Tavernier was the only man for the job. It had dip and it had curl and it was too good for Dennis as he dived in vain to his left.

This was a historic moment for Tavernier as he equalled the record of John Greig and scored his 121st goal for Rangers. That would have mattered little in the moment, though, and there were no wild celebrations as the ball was collected and the search for the second goal began as soon as the first had been scored. When Lawrence followed his lead just minutes later, Tavernier was visibly more hyped up and he roared at the travelling support as they lost their shape in the delirium.

Another free-kick, this time from an angle on the right that was against him, was narrowly wide of target from Tavernier. The final minutes were about game management and he had to lead by example. Once again, he did.

Did Clement get selection calls right?

If Clement had chosen to go with the same side that started the win over Hearts at the weekend, there could have been no complaints from those that missed out. That is not the blueprint the Belgian has worked from, though, and three switches were made here. Borna Barisic was a surprise starter in place of Ridvan Yilmaz, while Ross McCausland got the nod ahead of Dujon Sterling and Silva replaced Dessers as Clement continued to rotate.

He has explained his rationale for doing so often enough. It is a squad game rather than a team one, after all. Some members of the group are stronger than others, though, and the Barisic call in particular sparked debate before a ball was kicked. The Croatian’s performance did little to win over those who had expressed doubts regarding his selection. He was rightly hooked at the break.

Silva was not as culpable in the first half but he was still largely ineffective and Dessers took his place for the second 45 minutes. It was an admission from Clement that it had not worked to that stage. He will be criticised for arguably picking the wrong side to begin with but had to be credited for looking to change it at the interval. It worked.

A missed opportunity for Killie

Rugby Park has been the scene of so many costly results for Rangers over recent years. Clement played down the significance of the defeat here on the opening day of the campaign, stating that it was a different situation and squad. He was right, but that didn’t ease the anxiety of the support heading into a fixture with one of the form sides in the country.

Less than a quarter of an hour in, Rangers had made life harder for themselves. Barisic conceded cheap possession in the corner and the hosts capitalised. Lundstram was penalised for handball when Armstrong attempted a cross and he made no mistake from 12 yards after a VAR check confirmed the correct call had been made by referee David Dickinson.

McInnes had stated pre-match that a win for his side would not have been a shock. Given their form and their record against the Old Firm this term, he was right. This defeat will frustrate him. Rangers were arguably there for the taking but Kilmarnock couldn’t complete the job.