THE chants of “F*** the SFA” which the members of the Union Bears ultras group started in just the third minute of Rangers’ game against Kilmarnock at Ibrox this afternoon showed the pain of the Celtic defeat had not eased any.

It will take some time for Philippe Clement’s men and their followers to get over the cinch Premiership loss at Parkhead on Saturday – or forget about the controversial Alistair Johnston handball incident.   

It was, though, important for James Tavernier and his team mates, who fell eight points behind their city rivals, who have played two league games more than them, in the table at the weekend, to get back to winning ways today and they duly did so

Ross McCausland broke the deadlock four minutes before half-time when he ran onto a cross-field pass from Cyriel Dessers and fired beyond Will Dennis and Abdallah Sima added another shortly afterwards.

Rangers’ remarkable 74 game run without conceding a penalty was ended in the second-half when referee John Beaton ruled that John Souttar had handled a Rory McKenzie cross inside his own area after being told to watch a replay of the incident on the pitchside monitor by his VAR colleague Andrew Dallas.

Danny Armstrong made no mistake with the spot kick. But Rangers forged two ahead just three minutes later when he dinked a Ridvan Yilmaz pass past Dennis and into the net. Here are five talking points from the encounter.

Sima strike

Rangers’ play up front cost them dear against Celtic. Dessers, McCausland and Cantwell all should have done far better after being put into positions to beat Joe Hart. But their finishing could not be faulted this afternoon.

McCausland did superbly to put his side in front after being supplied by Dessers. But the strike that Sima conjured up just a few minutes later was sensational. He chested a Connor Goldson delivery into the air, turned on a sixpence and volleyed into the top corner. Poor Joe Wright didn’t know what was happening.

The Brighton loanee has done well since moving to Govan on a season-long loan deal in the summer. His spectacular effort today took his tally for the 2023/24 campaign to 15. He will be sorely missed when he is away at the African Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast with Senegal this month.

Kilmarnock clout

No team in Scotland has performed better against the Old Firm clubs this season than Kilmarnock – the Rugby Park club have beaten Rangers once and Celtic twice at Rugby Park in the past five months.

They showed exactly why this afternoon. Yes, Derek McInnes’s side withstood a great deal of pressure before falling behind and were two down at half-time. But they certainly had their scoring opportunities at 0-0. The final outcome could been completely different if they had taken one of them.

Substitute David Watson, who came on after Liam Donnelly suffered a knock, sent Kyle Vassell clean through on goal with a defence-splitting through ball. The striker did not rush his shot, but Jack Butland raced quickly off his line and denied him the opener with his legs. Goldson also did well to clear a Matty Kennedy cross into his six yard box.

Ultimately, the difference between the two teams today was in the final third. But Kilmarnock look more than capable of challenging for a top six finish and possibly even a European place in 2024 on this evidence.  

Silva service

New loan signing Fabio Silva received a warm round of applause from the home supporters in the 49,250-strong crowd at Ibrox this afternoon as he made his Rangers debut with around 20 minutes of regulation time remaining.

Much is expected from a Portuguese player who cost Premier League ouitfit Wolves a cool £35m three years ago.

Can the 21-year-old provide Clement’s side with more of a cutting edge in attack in the coming months and increase their chances of beating Celtic to the Premiership trophy come May? It was hard to say from his run-out today as the former Porto wonderkid did not receive much of the ball during his time on the park.

Still, his manager will have been pleased to have given his first acquisition, who has only taken part in one training session, some game time at home.  

Raskin return

The names of Borna Barisic, Ben Davies, Jose Cifuentes, Ryan Jack, Tom Lawrence, Danilo and Kemar Roofe were once again absent from the Rangers squad. Clement continues to be plagued by a lengthy injury list. With Leon Balogun suspended as a result of the red card he received at the weekend, he had no back-up centre backs.

But being able to name Nicolas Raskin among the substitutes this afternoon was positive for him. The central midfielder has been out of action since damaging his ankle in the 2-1 league triumph over Hearts at Ibrox back in October.  

The 22-year-old has not been as influential in the first half of this season as he was in the second half of last term after joining from Standard Liege. It will, though, be interesting to see how he fares working with Clement. Raskin only featured in three games under his countryman before being ruled out. He got a good reception when he came on for Cantwell late on.

Spot kick call

Conspiracy theories have abounded in the Scottish game during the extended run that Rangers went on without conceding a penalty in the Premiership.

Before today, the Glasgow giants had last had a spot kick awarded against them in the league in a match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie way back  on January 18, 2022.

For many observers, it showed that match officials in this country favour the Ibrox club over their domestic rivals.

Hopefully, the decision to give Kilmarnock the chance to net from 12 yards out this afternoon will see an end to the unfair aspersions which are regularly cast on the integrity of our leading referees. But do not hold your breath.