THE first challenge has been overcome for Rangers. The remainder of this festive run will show whether the champions have the mettle to defend their Premiership title.

Trips to Hibernian, Hearts, Aberdeen and Celtic await Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side before the winter break. At a freezing Livingston, Rangers ensured they didn’t slip up.

This fixture may not have the glamour of those that are to follow, but it was just as significant a test for Rangers. It was one that they passed comfortably as goals from Scott Arfield, Joe Aribo and Fashion Sakala earned a deserved victory.

Van Bronckhorst marked his return to Ibrox by seeing off Sparta Prague on Thursday night and his first taste of Scottish football in two decades was not a sour one. The game has changed in the years since his Light Blues heyday, but the requirement to win at Rangers has not.

There will be aspects of this performance that the Dutchman will not appreciate and there will be areas where he will know improvements must be made. The outcome was all that really mattered, however.

That will be the case throughout this potentially defining sequences that Rangers are now in. If they can emerge relatively unscathed after leaving Parkhead, the champions will give themselves the platform to ensure that title 56 is won this term.

Rangers were guilty of making life harder for themselves than it needed to be in the final weeks of Steven Gerrard’s tenure as they conceded first and had to come from behind on several occasions, both domestically and in Europe.

Here, it was the opposite. The champions would start emphatically and seemingly have the job almost done before standards slipped and Livingston were given hope where none should have existed.

When Rangers were on it, they were mightily impressive. When they dropped off, they were somewhat average.

Such disparity between high and low must have frustrated Van Bronckhorst. It is certainly an issue that the Dutchman must address if his side are to avoid further angst in the Premiership over the coming weeks.

It would take Rangers just eight minutes to open the scoring. When they doubled their lead just after the quarter hour mark, there should have been no way back for David Martindale’s side.

The opener from Arfield was well worked and well finished. James Tavernier picked out the run of the midfielder as he burst beyond the Livingston defence, and he had the required touch to collect the pass and create the scoring chance.

The execution from there was exquisite as Arfield chipped the ball over Max Stryjek. The keeper was left stranded and exposed and could only watch on as Arfield’s effort looped over his head and into the net.

There was an energy and effervescence about Rangers in the opening exchanges and Livingston couldn’t cope with the width provided by Ryan Kent or the movement from the likes of Aribo and Ianis Hagi. All were involved in the second goal.

Hagi’s diagonal from right to left saw Rangers switch the play and Kent found Alfredo Morelos. The Colombian will get an assist, although his part in proceedings was the simplest of all as he knocked the ball on and to Aribo.

Few players on the pitch have the vision or the ability to produce the finish that Aribo did. Thankfully for Van Bronckhorst, the Nigerian showed his class when it mattered.

Stryjek was again left helpless. The strike from Aribo had dip and curl and would clip the bar on its way in as Rangers had the rewards that their attacking play deserved at that stage.

It seemed it was a case of how many the champions would win by. Livingston had other ideas, though.

Jack Fitzwater’s searching pass from deep inside his own half shouldn’t have caused Connor Goldson any problems but he was exposed as Alan Forrest beat him too easily. Allan McGregor was on hand to save low on this occasion, but Bruce Anderson was in the right place at the right time as he nodded home and reduced Livingston’s arrears.

Had it not been for McGregor, the deficit would have been wiped out before the break. Just days after his stunning double-save against Sparta Prague, he was at it again.

Odin Bailey’s cross was flicked on by Arfield and Forrest seemed destined to score as he knocked the ball into the ground. On his way down, McGregor somehow got his hand up to deny Forrest with a remarkable show of agility and skill.

The fact that Rangers had fallen away as the half had progressed was a source of concern for Van Bronckhorst. His side would start the second period on the front foot, but only after the visiting fans delay proceedings due to their own idiocy.

The interval had been spent lobbing snowballs along the stand behind the goal that Stryjek would soon walk to. As he did so, the targets changed from police and stewards to the Livingston keeper.

Unimpressed with the antics, Stryjek headed for the middle of the park and the action was delayed as players and staff attempted to clear the pitch.

Martindale had marched on to plead with the punters, while his players were put through their paces in an attempt to keep warm as Rangers knocked a ball about in their own half.

It was all as petty and pointless as it was embarrassing but the ten minutes of standing around couldn’t knock Rangers off their stride. A third goal was needed to make sure of the three points.

Hagi came close with an audacious Rabona effort and low strike that Stryjek saved comfortably, while the keeper had to be at his best to deny Aribo from distance.

Rangers controlled proceedings without looking that threatening. Possession wasn’t being turned into chances and Livingston still had a sniff heading into the final 15 minutes.

By that stage, Van Bronckhorst had made his first switches. Sakala replaced Kent on the left, while Nathan Patterson assumed Hagi’s spot on the other flank as Rangers looked for the guile and spark to finally put Livingston away.

It was Sakala that provided it. A Tavernier corner was delivered from the right and the Zambian timed his run and leap perfectly as he evaded what little marking there was from the static Livingston defence.

Sakala’s header was powerful and well placed. That was the moment that Rangers had been waiting so long for as victory was secured.

The first one had been won. Rangers just need to keep ticking them off in the coming weeks as Van Bronckhorst aims to build some title momentum at Ibrox.