Rangers got their season off to a winning start with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Motherwell at Fir Park.
The starting line-up was the one used in the Sheffield Wednesday friendly. Tavernier was deemed not fit enough to start, but took a place on the bench, with new signings Pena and Morelos also listed as substitutes.
Rangers started the game with intent, and after a few minutes, they won a free kick 40 yards from the Motherwell goal. Candeias swung it in, and it was partially cleared towards the byline. Alves, who had read the play, took a good touch and dinked in a great cross, which was knocked down by Miller into the path of Dorrans, unmarked on the edge of the box. Dorrans controlled his shot well, and through a couple of players and deflections, the ball ended up in the back of the net. Only 4 minutes into his competitive debut, the lifelong Rangers fan made it 1-0, and the entire team celebrated with real passion.
From there, the game became an interesting one, with Motherwell playing very directly and using their pace and strength to attempt to get an equaliser. Rangers were in control, but on 17 minutes a loose ball from Foderingham was won just inside the Rangers half by the Motherwell midfield. They found space on the right through Chris Cadden, as Rangers tried to regroup, and his cross was a good one to the back post. Moult met it in plenty of space but somehow missed a glaring opportunity by slicing the ball across goal.
Rangers were keeping the tempo high, and one of the best opportunities of the first half came from a quick break. Windass, who had been giving the Motherwell defence some real problems with his pace and movement, was fed the ball quickly by Foderingham after a poor Motherwell cross. His run took him from deep inside his own half, past three Motherwell players, into the box on the angle where he was suddenly through on goal. His curled shot to the back post just didn’t curl enough though, and it hit the woodwork and bounced clear. Had he scored, it would have been one of the goals of the season.
There was a lot of physical play, challenges and fouls throughout the game, but Rangers were playing well and looking to dominate possession whilst also offering a goal threat. It was some desperate defending which kept Rangers from scoring more than once, and the crosses from Motherwell were coming from all over and were being dealt with by our defence and Foderingham. However, Motherwell found an equaliser with their first shot on target, and it came from a cross Rangers never dealt with.
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Alves gave away a foul not far from the halfway line after some slack play meant we gave the ball away. We set up for the ball to be launched in, but Motherwell went short, playing a ball to Tanner on the right who whipped in a great cross with his left foot. As Foderingham couldn’t come for it with the bodies in front of him, the defenders had to be strong, but Hodson was on the wrong side of Heneghan after being outmuscled, and the Motherwell defender got his head to the ball to score. 40 minutes into a half where Rangers had been clearly better, it was 1-1.
Windass created another chance through his good play just before half time, with his shot hitting the bar after he cut in from the left. The teams went into the break level, and it was Rangers who should have scored early in the second half to change that.
Some great work from Candeias on the right to win a ball being ushered out of play by the Motherwell defender got him free on the byline. He pulled it back into the path of Miller, who was clear at 10 yards out and hit the ball with his right foot towards the back post. He got a little too much purchase on it though, and it went over the bar when it seemed certain he’d score.
The goal that won the game came just 7 minutes later though. A corner was cleared but the ball played back out wide to Candeias. His cross looked like it would be nodded home by Cardoso, but a clear elbow from Moult flattened the Rangers centre half, and the referee gave the penalty. Dorrans stepped to score his second of the game, beating the keeper to his left even though they guessed the right way. After 57 minutes, Rangers were ahead again.
From there, Motherwell fought hard to get back into the game again. The play of Windass and Candeias wide which was so effective in the first half had been nullified, and Rangers struggled to get any real control of the game as the ball wouldn’t stick up front.
There were two real moments which could be described as let-offs. One cross from the Motherwell right fell to Ryan Bowman, who somehow skewed the shot wide. Just after that, Caixinha brought on Danny Wilson for Kenny Miller to change to a back 3 as it was clear we were struggling to stop the crosses coming in.
The second chance came from a couple of mistakes which let the ball fall to Alex Fisher in the box. Foderingham came out quickly and got his right hand to the shot, which somehow deflected past the back post. It was a great save and ensured Rangers took the three points.
Last season, if we had gone to an away fixture facing a team playing as well as Motherwell did, it would have been very unlikely we’d have taken three points. We had some moments of luck, and only patches of good play, but the mentality and fight from the team was very encouraging. Those are the elements you can’t really work on, but they win you more matches than anything else.
Player ratings and Man of the Match will be discussed in upcoming articles today – let us know your thoughts on the match!
Carson, Tait, Heneghan, Cadden, McHugh, Moult (Fisher 72), Frear (Bowman 65), Rose (Newell 78), Dunne, Kipre, Tanner
Griffiths, Plummer, Campbell, McMillan
Dunne, Moult, Heneghan, Tait
Foderingham; Hodson (Tavernier 61), Cardoso, Alves, Wallace; Candeias, Jack, Dorrans, Windass; Herrera (Morelos 82), Miller (Wilson 76)
Alnwick, Holt, Dalcio, Pena
Dorrans, 4, 57 (pen)