Matchzone: Rangers (H)
Kilmarnock kicked off the 2023/24 campaign in sensational style by overcoming Rangers on the Rugby Park turf to claim just a second opening day victory in 13 years.
The Sky Sports cameras turned out alongside a 5000+ strong home support, who roared the team to victory following a second half strike from Brad Lyons.
A number of new signings made impressive league debuts for the club, which included a clean sheet for incoming goalkeeper Will Dennis and a Man of the Match performance from Robbie Deas in defence.
It was the home side who were first to burst into life, with Danny Armstrong’s ambitious strike in the opening minutes skipping past the post but sending an early signal of intent.
The hosts had the early sighters in the first quarter of an hour as the wait for a clear-cut opportunity progressed. A half-chance came the home side’s way when Lewis Mayo met a free-kick thrown towards the back post, but couldn’t connect strongly enough to divert goalward.
At the Moffat Stand end, Will Dennis was called into a couple of comfortable gathers which would commence a solid performance from the new Rugby Park No.1.
The following 15 minutes would see Killie continue to show ambition. Armstrong again tried his luck from range, this time through a well-struck volley which was swung over the bar from 25 yards.
At the back, Derek McInnes’ men stood strong. Will Dennis commanded his box confidently, claiming two threatening crosses in quick succession. It was his right full-back who would make the most impressive stop of the game. Pace and tenacity was shown in abundance as Lewis Mayo tracked back to make an incredible recovery challenge to halt Cyriel Dessers as he broke through on goal.
Will Dennis maintained a first half clean sheet in the five-minute period that preceded the break. Firstly, diving bravely at the feet of Rangers attackers to claim a dangerous rebound from a corner, before making the first real save of the game to deny Cyriel Dessers.
It was a scrappier start to the second period, with Rangers first to control a spell of possession. Both sides had faint glimpses at goal: Matty Kennedy forced Jack Butland into a comfortable save before two Rangers corners pass without causing issues.
There was plenty for the home support to feel encouraged about as the game progressed towards the hour mark. Dominant at the back, Robbie Deas was first to every ball thrown into his vicinity. In the forward areas, Killie’s attack was gaining momentum.
Matty Kennedy weaved inside and sent a left-footed effort rising narrowly over the bar, which earned a roar from the blue and white army who were increasing in volume by the minute. Rugby Park would erupt moments later.
A throw-in on the Frank Beattie Stand touchline was worked into the penalty area, with stand-in captain Brad Lyons on hand to slot the ball home after a stramash (1-0).
Buoyed from taking the lead, Killie continued to advance into the final third. Kyle Magennis worked the Rangers No.1 from 15 yards as the match hurtled towards the final 20 minutes. Armstrong was next to go close, firing a left-footed snapshot just past the post.
Bolstered by the returning captain Kyle Vassell, and vice-captain, Rory McKenzie, the hosts entered the final 15 minutes with fresh legs and valuable experience on the park.
Rangers began to dictate possession as they searched for an equaliser. Unable to break through the opposing defence, the visitors were limited to strikes from range and hopeful balls into the box, which were continuously dealt with by Deas, Findlay and co.
Killie counters could have killed the game in the final moments, but an unbreakable defence secured opening day victory for the Ayrshire side.
Result: Kilmarnock 1-0 Rangers
Killie lineup: Dennis, Mayo, Deas, Findlay, Ndaba, Armstrong, Watson, Lyons, Magennis (McKenzie 75), Kennedy, Watkins (Vassell 62).
Rangers lineup: Butland, Tavernier, Goldson, Souttar, Barisic, Lundstram (Jack 72), Raskin, Dowell (Cantwell 62), Lammers (Roof 84), Dessers (Pereira da Silva 62′) Sima.
Speaking at full-time, Derek McInnes expressed that he couldn’t possibly “single anybody out” after an all-round team performance. You can listen to the full interview – HERE.
Check out the best action shots, courtesy of club photographers Jeff Holmes and Ross MacKenzie.