Rangers have missed the chance to equal the club’s post-war record for consecutive league wins after being stopped at 15 wins by a dogged Motherwell side to claim a point at Fir Park. [Rangers]
The Gers could’ve levelled the recordset by Jock Wallace’s side in 1972/73 as they opened up a 21-point lead at the top of the Premiership over bitter rivals Celtic by maintaining their record this season.
Going into the game, the Steelmen were winless in their last 47 top-flight league matches against Rangers, a 1-0 win in December 2002 their last triumph against the Gers, while their recent league form saw them without a win in their last ten games.
With new boss Graham Alexander taking charge of only his second game in charge of Motherwell, the former Salford City manager was in the Fir Park dugout for the first time as Rangers came calling.
The Gers named an unchanged side from last weekend’s 2-1 win over Motherwell at Pittodrie as Steven Davis made his 300th appearance for Rangers over his two spells at the club [Rangers TV].
The Light Blues were worried just ahead of kick-off when Leon Balogun looked to have picked up an inury in the warm-up but the Nigerian international was fit enough to take his place alongside Goldson at the heart of the defence.
Motherwell made a fairly attacking start, keeping a high line before Rangers started to turn the screw and look to take an early lead, having a number of early corners but failing to take advantage.
Despite seeing plenty of possession, the Gers were a bit too slack in possession with too many passes not quite finding their man and frustrating Gerrard.
The Gers’ wastefulness came back to haunt them on the 20th minute when Motherwell took a surprise lead, capitalising on poor defending from the Light Blues.
Liam Polworth and Tony Watt were allowed for too much room on the edge of the area to work the ball from left to right before it was slid across goal for Devante Cole to poke home from point blank range.
Rangers almost drew level five minutes later through Morelos, Barisic whipping an excellent cross for Morelos and the Colombian’s header went just wide of Kelly’s far post.
Steven Gerrard’s side were still controlling most of the possession but everything seemed a little too predictable as the first-half ticked down, with Motherwell’s lead still intact.
There had been very little for Liam Kelly to do in the opening 45 but there did seem an eventuality to Rangers grabbing an equaliser – even if quite where it was coming from wasn’t immediately obvious.
Referee Don Robertson’s bringing the first half to an end was almost necessary for the visitors, giving Gerrard’s side the chance to reset over the break ahead of a massive 45 minutes in their title challenge.
There was an early opportunity for Rangers to draw themselves level after the restart, Ianis Hagi volleying wide of Kelly’s goal as the Light Blues started the second 45 looking hungry.
It was much better in the opening spell of the second half, Ryan Kent next to have a go as he stretched to get on the end of a fantastic cross from Hagi – the Romanian looking to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make something happen.
Gerrard turned his subs shortly afterwards, bringing Cedric Itten off the bench in place of Hagi, in a bit of a surprising switch, as the Swiss striker looked to add to his tally against the Steelmen.
Cole was the hero for Motherwell at the other end after 55 minutes, clearing Connor Goldson’s header off the line as the hosts survived a spell of pressure from Rangers.
With the game entering the final 30 minutes, it was clear Rangers’ plan of firing crosses into the box simply wasn’t working but the Light Blues looked short of ideas in their search for an equaliser.
Motherwell started to get back into the game again, mainly as a result of slackness from Rangers, and Gerrard must have been wondering what was going wrong with his players.
The visitors were struggling to string together more than a few passes at a time and were progressively losing their grip on the game – and sight of the three points they were after.
The best chance to draw level came after 66 minutes, Kent’s deep cross nodded across goal by Tavernier but there was nobody there to convert with Kelly in no man’s land.
The Gers finally got an equaliser with 72 minutes on the clock – Cedric Itten again netting against the Fir Park side after being gifted a free header at the back post.
There was nothing Kelly could do to keep the ball out as Itten had the freedom of the six yard box to nod home and get the Light Blues back on level terms.
The former St. Gallen striker seems to love a goal against Motherwell, scoring in all three games against them so far since arriving at Ibrox last summer.
The equaliser came at the exact same point as the Gers’ equaliser did last time the two sides met last month, and with 15 minutes left to grab a winner, Rangers started to push forward.
It set the stage for a nervy finale, with Rangers laying siege to the Motherwell box and throwing on Jermain Defoe for Morelos with just under ten minutes left.
Motherwell had an incredibly lucky escape with ust a few minutes to go, the ball pinging around in the six yard box but nobody being able to poke it over the line and give the Gers the lead for the first time.
There was one final chance for the Gers, Defoe showing fantastic control to bring the ball down before rifling a shot at goal but Kelly held it well to deny the veteran a late winner and stop Rangers taking all three points.
Motherwell: Kelly, O’Donnell, Mugabi, Gallagher, Carroll, Crawford, Campbell, Polworth, Seedorf, Cole, Watt
Subs: Morrison, McGinley, Devine, Lamie, Johnston, Maguire, Cornelius, White, Lawless, MacIver
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Aribo. Kent, Hagi, Morelos
Subs: McLaughlin, Bassey, Helander, Defoe, Itten, Zungu, Patterson, Barker, Stewart.
Here’s how Rangers fans reacted to the Gers’ starting XI ahead of this afternoon’s Scottish Premiership clash against Motherwell at Fir Park