Gers begin title defence with win

James Beattie helped Rangers begin their defence of the SPL title with a 2-1 win over Kilmarnock but failed to mark his debut with a goal.

Last Updated: 14/08/10 at 17:23 Post Comment

Naismith: Grabbed the winner for Gers

Naismith: Grabbed the winner for Gers

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Kenny Miller and Steven Naismith were both on the scoresheet for the Scottish champions before Jamie Hamill pulled a goal back from the penalty spot at Ibrox.

Walter Smith's men were under pressure to open with a victory after rivals Celtic secured three points earlier in the day at Inverness.

Beattie was thrown straight into the clash just 24 hours after becoming Rangers' first signing in two years when he completed his move from Stoke yesterday.

Steven Davis was absent from the starting line-up amid suggestions he returned from international duty with a bug, while Andy Webster and John Fleck were injured and Lee McCulloch was suspended.

Cameron Bell replaced the injured Alan Combe in goal and David Mendes Da Silva, Ben Gordon and James Dayton all made their bows for Kilmarnock.

The SPL flag was unfurled and, when the action was under way, Beattie tried to make his mark early on with a lovely cross from the right for Miller but Bell managed to snuff out the danger before the striker could connect cleanly with the shot from a few yards out.

Miller - wearing the number 9 jersey following the departure of Kris Boyd this summer - then saw his header flash wide as Rangers continued to press for an early opener.

Kirk Broadfoot played a free-kick to Miller on the edge of the box but his stinging low shot took a massive deflection and fell wide of the post.

Miller's efforts were finally rewarded when he grabbed the opener after 16 minutes. Broadfoot's shot was blocked on the line by James Fowler and his attempted clearance came off Miller who gratefully bundled home from close range.

Miller proved to be crucial at the back as well when Mendes Da Silva's corner was met by Fowler and his shot could have found the back of the net had it not been for a timely block from the striker.

He then attempted to turn provider with a short pass to Beattie who must have thought he was set to open his account for his new club. But Bell came to the rescue of Killie when he produced a superb block to prevent the thunderous point-blank effort from finding the back of the net.

Beattie squandered another chance to add his name to the scoresheet within a few minutes of the restart when he took advantage of a stumble by Frazer Wright before weaving his way into the box only for a weak stab at goal to be swiped to safety by the goalkeeper.

Lafferty then tried his luck with a powerful shot from distance which clipped Miller before smacking off the post and out of play, before Naismith's 25-yard effort was saved by Bell.

Naismith had more luck with 58 minutes gone when Miller lofted the ball out to the midfielder on the right and he connected well before dispatching an angled drive into the bottom corner.

However, Killie pulled a goal back two minutes later when referee William Collum ruled that Sasa Papac had fouled Liam Kelly in the box and Hamill stepped up to fire a low shot past Allan McGregor from the penalty spot.

Rangers had the chance to put their visitors under pressure when Fowler was booked for a challenge on Naismith and Lafferty stood over the resultant free-kick just outside the box but the big striker lashed past the upright.

Beattie left the action to the applause of the Rangers support following a decent debut for the Light Blues when he was replaced by youngster Kyle Hutton for the last 10 minutes.

Kilmarnock had looked livelier after finding the back of the net but any hopes they had of causing an opening day shock were dashed as Rangers held on to open the new season with a win.

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