GLASGOW, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Lithuanian striker Andrius Velicka scored his first goal for Rangers to scrape a 1-0 win at Falkirk in their Scottish Premier League opener on Saturday.
The 63rd minute goal by Velicka saved Rangers from an ignominious start to the season, four days after his countrymen of Kaunas knocked them out of the Champions League.
Rangers struggled for long periods and survived a second-half Falkirk penalty when Michael Higdon's 50th minute spot-kick was turned away by keeper Allan McGregor.
They failed to break down the Falkirk defence in the first half and had a real scare when McGregor sliced an attempted clearance across the face of his own goal in the 25th minute from Kirk Broadfoot's pass back.
Striker Kris Boyd nearly put Rangers ahead from point-blank range before the break, but Velicka made no mistake with a 63rd minute tap-in at the far post from Kyle Lafferty's low cross.
'After our midweek disappointment it was always going to be a difficult game for us,' manager Walter Smith told BBC Radio. 'So I am just pleased to go on and win it.
'It wasn't an easy day for us and, indeed, it was never going to be an easy day.'
Rangers, UEFA Cup runners-up in May, slumped to a 2-1 aggregate defeat by Kaunas in the Champions League second qualifying round.
In other matches, Kilmarnock won 1-0 against Hibernian with a terrific 20-metre shot from substitute Jamie Hamill, Aberdeen lost 2-0 at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts beat Motherwell 3-2.
Champions Celtic face St Mirren at home on Sunday and promoted Hamilton Academical play Dundee United on Monday.