A 10-man Rangers kept their Premiership title hopes alive with a battling win over Motherwell.
In a fixture brought forward 24 hours to help the Light Blues prepare for their Europa League semi-final against RB Leipzig on Thursday, the much-changed visitors took the lead in 14 minutes, although it was unclear whether the home keeper, Liam Kelly, had handled into his own net from a Connor Goldson header or whether Scott Wright got the last touch.
Rangers’ Leon Balogun was shown a red card by Nick Walsh in the 29th minute for a heavy tackle on Dean Cornelius, with Calvin Bassey immediately replacing Amad Diallo.
More trouble came for Rangers soon afterwards when a mistake by Bassey was punished by Ross Tierney when he headed in from eight yards from a Jake Carroll cross from deep on the left in the 35th minute.
There was no doubt it was Wright who drove in Rangers’ second two minutes into the second half.
Walsh pointed to the spot when Motherwell’s Bevis Mugabe brought down Fashion Sakala in the box and James Tavernier sent Kelly the wrong way with the spot-kick to give the visitor’s some breathing space.
With four fixtures remaining, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side are three points behind the leaders, Celtic, who play at Ross County on Sunday, before the last Old Firm fixture of the season at Parkhead next Sunday.
Van Bronckhorst told Sky Sports: “We had to adjust the game plan. We started off really well and we were in control of the game.
“With the red card, we had to switch to a different way of playing. It worked out well. You need to make sure you still create the chances and the players did what we wanted really well.”
The Motherwell manager, Graham Alexander, reflected on his side’s performance without their suspended striker Kevin van Veen. “First half, I couldn’t have been happier,” he said. “We deservedly got a great equalizer.
“Second half, we started with a passive mindset and we got punished. The game slipped away from us because it’s hard to turn that around.”
The loss means Motherwell remain in sixth place with just one league win in 2022 and they face a big game next Saturday at Dundee United, who are one point ahead in fourth.
The focus now turns to the Europa League semi-final first leg in Germany where the Rangers manager will have to come up with a plan that again does not include several of his key players including Alfredo Morelos, Kemar Roofe and Aaron Ramsey.