Fir Park hosted a very entertaining match in which Rangers failed to win all three points due to conceding a last-minute equaliser. The nature of the draw meant that Rangers fans came away very disappointed. It was one of those games you hope to see when you’re not watching your own team play. Of the two sides, Motherwell were better able to impose themselves on the match and will feel they could have won. Rangers also know that they were mere seconds from victory, one which would have been down to attitude and desire on the day.
Rangers brought Barisic, Halliday and Lafferty into the starting line-up. Kent, Candeias and Arfield dropped to the bench. The biggest change was in terms of the team shape, however. It was a 3-5-2 being employed by Gerrard and the management team.
That was the formation Motherwell played, as they made only one change from their win over Livingston. Young midfielder Campbell replaced Alex Gorrin to add more energy and drive.
There had rightly been a lot made of the fact that Rangers hadn’t trailed in a match under Gerrard so far. It took all of 3 minutes for that record to be broken. A long ball looked set to be dealt with by Goldson, but he slipped at the last second. That let Danny Johnson through, and with McGregor stranded, the striker lifted the ball over the goalkeeper and put Motherwell 1-0 up.
Rangers hadn’t started too badly aside from that, with some nice football in spells. A few minutes later Lafferty had a good header saved by Carson. Motherwell were also creating chances, though, and Johnson was the main threat. He had a shot just over the bar, and his movement was causing Goldson all sorts of issues. A great cross by Cadden somehow missed everyone inside the 6-yard box and was eventually cleared. Only 11 minutes into the match, and it was clear it was going to be a tough day for Rangers.
Just 4 minutes later, Rangers got their equaliser. A ball in from Barisic on the left wasn’t fully dealt with, and Lafferty hit a great volley from the edge of the box. A deflection off Tait wrong-footed Carson and gave the striker his first goal in his second spell for the club.
And parity lasted all of 3 minutes as Motherwell took the lead with a set piece. A long free kick from Bigirimana was met at the back post by McHugh, who had got away from Tavernier. His header looped all the way to the far post to make it 2-1.
Despite being behind, and both conceded goals being poor, Rangers were showing some real desire to get back into the match. Morelos saw a shot blocked by Aldred when he got free in the box. Halliday had a good cross cleared when it looked like either Morelos or Lafferty were set to convert. Barisic was causing problems on the left with his strong running and good crossing. On 38 minutes, Rangers were rewarded for their play with the equaliser. A quick throw-in by Goldson got the ball to Tavernier on the right. His excellent cross was met by Lafferty’s head and beat Carson to make it 2-2.
With not long left in the half, you almost expected both sides to take a breather. Instead, they both chased the next goal, and it went the way of Rangers. After Curtis Main had won a corner, Rangers managed to defend the ball in and Morelos done well to get free just outside his own box. He drove forward, played the ball to Barisic who in turn played a great pass to Ejaria. The midfielder took a lovely touch and curled an effort at goal from just outside the box. Carson got his hands to it, but the wet ball seemed to somehow squirm through his hands and went over the line.
Rangers had the lead, but there was no doubt Motherwell were playing well. Only 2 minutes into the half, McGregor had to save from Johnson after a cross wasn’t dealt with by the defence. Five minutes later, Main was close to connecting with a great cross from Johnson. It took Rangers until the 60th minute to settle in any way.
At that point, the match was a little scrappy. Both teams were struggling to maintain possession and working hard defensively. Lafferty had a good chance to get his hattrick on 75 minutes from a cross by Barisic, but his connection was poor and he hit it well wide. A couple of minutes later, Goldson got a vital touch to a cross by Frear with Connor Sammon waiting to score. Hartley then missed a great chance from a corner when he saw his header go high and wide under very little pressure.
On 85 minutes, Main had a great chance to score. Frear found space on the left again and his cross was excellent. The Motherwell striker had a header across goal which went just wide when it looked certain he would score.
It seemed like Rangers had ridden out the storm. The very last minute of the match proved to be just one chance too many to hold out. Motherwell won a corner, which was delayed by a substitution from Rangers. The ball in from Bigirimana was excellent, and Hartley found space at the back post to score from around a yard out. At least 3 Rangers players lost their men in terms of marking, and it was a poor goal to lose.
It’s taken until the 11th match of Gerrard’s reign to come away from a game feeling like the team was outplayed on the day. Rangers were nowhere near their best on a day where a wet pitch and a physical team caused some real issues. Motherwell are a side that can be very difficult to play against when they are at their best. With little time to work on things in training, the move to a different formation was possibly a mistake. There were a few positives, but too many negatives and the draw felt like a defeat. If Rangers go on to play well in the next two matches, fans will be quick to get over it.
McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan, Barisic (Middleton 79’), Jack, Ejaria, Halliday (Arfield 68’), Lafferty, Morelos.
Subs not used: Foderingham, Wallace, Sadiq, Kent, Candeias.
Carson, Tait, McHugh, Aldred, Hartley, Cadden, Campbell (Frear 75’), Main, Rose (Bowman 84’), Bigirimana, Johnson (Sammon 75’)
Subs not used: Gillespie, Taylor-Sinclair, Rodriguez Gorrin, Turnbull.