Motherwell 1 Rangers 3: Light Blues breeze past Steelmen with 10 men in Fir Park stroll

Motherwell couldn’t make use of a Rangers red card as the Ibrox club swept them aside 3-1 in Premiership action at Fir Park.

The champions were ahead through an own goal by goalkeeper Liam Kelly inside the opening quarter but things turned dramatically when Leon Balogun was sent off for the Light Blues after 28 minutes.

Ross Tierney pounced and put ‘Well on level terms before half-time, but that was a short-lived moment as Scott Wright restored the away club’s lead two minutes after play had restarted.

It got worse for the claret and amber team when James Tavernier stepped up to double his team’s lead and all but end the game as a contest.

A man advantage wasn’t enough of a boost for Motherwell, who are now with just one win in 14 leagues matches.

The result leaves Graham Alexander’s side sixth while Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men go three points off Celtic leaders with four games to go.

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‘Well made two changes to the team that secured a top six place at Livingston two weeks ago. Key striker Kevin van Veen was missing through suspension and defender Solholm Johansen also missed out.

Attacking midfielder Ross Tierney and centre-back Juhani Ojala came in as the visitors made eight changes to a side which beat Celtic in Scottish Cup semi-final action last Sunday.

Only defenders James Tavernier, Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic kept their place as van Bronckhorst looked ahead to Thursday’s Europa League semi-final with RB Leipzig.

This fixture was moved forward 24 hours to help the Light Blues prepare for that but the mission was still the same for Motherwell – gain a big boost for their European football quest.

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Competing with Dundee United and Ross County for fourth and fifth which guarantees Europa Conference League qualification, Connor Shields had a go at putting them ahead inside the opening minute.

Rangers dominated the early stages as expected but the Steelmen showed signs of life, Sean Goss next to register a chance for them in six minutes.

The away side should have been ahead on 10 minutes. Fashion Sakala worked well on the right and set up Amad Diallo, but the Manchester United loanee was blocked by Kelly and Jake Carroll.

In a frantic scramble four minutes later, another cross into the home box proved dangerous, but this time Kelly couldn’t deal with it and ended up turning it into his own net.

Alexander’s men were behind but it’s a position they’ve found themselves in more often than not in 2022. They needed something to turn and the game did on 28 when Balogun lunged into a tackle with Dean Cornelius.

Leon Balogun sees red after a challenge on Motherwell’s Dean Cornelius.

A straight red was shown but two minutes later, Ojala was fortunate not to suffer the same fate for a challenge on Wright, which was deemed a booking by referee Nick Walsh.

The home side were certainly in the ascendency when the half-time whistle blew but they were sent crashing right back to earth on 47 minutes when Wright whistled a shot through a field of bodies and into the bottom corner.

For a team with 10 men, it wasn’t noticeable as Rangers continued to dictate play in Lanarkshire, before Bevis Mugabi brought down Sakala inside his own box to give away a penalty.

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Tavernier stepped up and converted on 62 minutes as ‘Well, despite the man advantage, faced a long way back.

Proceedings almost immediately began to peter out, Motherwell offering little in an attacking sense against a team happy to defend their two-goal cushion.

Sakala was causing Alexander’s team no end of problems and only a good Kelly block on 78 minutes denied him from getting on the scoresheet, and again he flashed a wide shot four minutes later.

Attentions now turn to a crucial triple header of matches for Motherwell, traveling to Dundee United and Ross County before a home match against Hearts.

Motherwell XI: Kelly, Mugabi (Amaluzor, 68), Lamie, Ojala, Carroll, Cornelius, Goss (O’Hara, 68), Slattery, Tierney, Efford (Woolery, 68), Shields.

Subs: Fox, Connelly, Shaw, Donnelly, Grimshaw, Nirennold.

Rangers XI: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Davis (Itten, 86), Kamara (Aribo, 68), Arfield (Sands, 68) Wright (King, 86), Diallo (Bassey, 30), Sakala.

Subs: McLaughlin, Lundstram, Jack, Kent.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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