Scottish Premiership - Play-offs - 1st Leg
Rangers1Motherwell3

Rangers 1-3 Motherwell

  • Motherwell have two-goal advantage in playoff
  • Lee Erwin and Stephen McManus scored in first half
  • Lionel Ainsworth added a third after half-time
  • Darren McGregor pulled one back for Rangers
  • Second leg at Fir Park on Sunday

Motherwell grasped the initiative in the Scottish Premiership play-off by taking a confident and emphatic two-goal lead from the first-leg at Ibrox.

Lee Erwin scored through a deflection from Darren McGregor, before Stephen McManus headed in a second.

Lionel Ainsworth struck a third just after the interval as Motherwell raced forward on the counter attack, with Rangers in a state of deep anxiety.

Rangers fought back with McGregor heading a late consolation.

That leaves a little hope, but Motherwell are in control of the tie. The two meet again at Fir Park in Sunday's second leg, with Rangers facing the very real prospect of another year in the Scottish Championship.

The visitors relied on their flexibility. Scott McDonald dropped back into midfield whenever Rangers had the ball, so that visitors employed a 4-5-1 shape when chasing possession. Yet Rangers were initially buoyant, and made progress on the flanks with their two full-backs overlapping.

The sense was of the visitors living on the edge of their wits, and the Motherwell goalkeeper George Long had to push a Lee Wallace cross away from danger. Kenny Miller then turned away from Stephen Pearson, nutmegged Keith Lasley and curled a shot from 20 yards just wide.

A moment of resourcefulness completely altered the nature of the game. There looked to be no imminent danger when Erwin gathered the ball just to the right of the penalty area. The striker was full of intent, though, and shifted his feet and his body to evade a challenge, then hit a left-foot shot that deflected off McGregor on its way past goalkeeper Cammy Bell.

Motherwell fans were in dreamland as their side went 3-0 up at Ibrox, a ground they had not won at since 1997
Motherwell fans were in dreamland as their side went 3-0 up at Ibrox, a ground they had not won at since 1997

The goal rattled the home side, whose poise drained, and Motherwell were carried forward on waves of zeal and confidence. They still needed Long, who was on reliable form, to block a Nicky Clark effort but it was the visitors' counter-attacks that became the game's defining feature, thanks to the pace of Ainsworth and Marvin Johnson.

One led to a free kick that Johnson delivered from the right and McManus glanced a header into the far corner.

The second goal left meant Motherwell could afford to sit off Rangers, strike on the counter and leave the home side under pressure to change the game.

Rangers had to hold their nerve, but they committed so many players forward at the beginning of the second half that when Andy Murdoch gifted possession to Pearson deep inside the Motherwell half, the break upfield saw a three v two in the visitors' favour. It ended with Ainsworth drilling a shot past Bell.

Ainsworth might have effectively finished the tie as a contest later in the half, but blasted over from close range. Motherwell were still comfortable, though, with McDonald and Pearson working hard and effectively in central midfield.

Long was also on hand when required, stopping a Haris Vuckic effort with one hand hand pushing a Kris Boyd header over from close range.

Rangers discarded any remaining caution, with Tom Walsh and Shane Ferguson coming off the bench to attack from wide. They slung crosses into the penalty area, and it was from a set-piece that the pressure eventually told, with McGregor heading powerfully into the net.

There were other close calls, with Vuckic pulling a shot just wide and McManus slicing the ball behind his own goal, but Motherwell carry a significant advantage into Sunday.

Rangers went into the game as favourites, with two wins and a draw in the previous rounds
Rangers went into the game as favourites, with two wins and a draw in the previous rounds
Motherwell supporters lit flares early into the game
Motherwell supporters lit flares early into the game
Lionel Ainsworth put Motherwell 3-0 ahead just after half-time
Lionel Ainsworth put Motherwell 3-0 ahead just after half-time

Line-ups

Rangers

  • 1Bell
  • 23Foster
  • 24McGregorBooked at 37mins
  • 26ZaliukasSubstituted forFergusonat 67'minutes
  • 5Wallace
  • 34Murdoch
  • 22ShielsSubstituted forWalshat 54'minutes
  • 7Law
  • 10Vuckic
  • 14ClarkSubstituted forBoydat 55'minutes
  • 18Miller

Substitutes

  • 2Smith
  • 6McCulloch
  • 8Black
  • 15Boyd
  • 25Robinson
  • 29Ferguson
  • 48Walsh

Motherwell

  • 1Long
  • 18Law
  • 45LaingBooked at 66mins
  • 6McManus
  • 3HammellSubstituted forStrakerat 70'minutes
  • 7Ainsworth
  • 14Lasley
  • 48PearsonSubstituted forRamsdenat 82'minutes
  • 24Johnson
  • 77McDonald
  • 19ErwinSubstituted forMooreat 88'minutes

Substitutes

  • 5Ramsden
  • 9Sutton
  • 12Twardzik
  • 22Moore
  • 38Watt
  • 44Straker
  • 47Grant
Referee:
Bobby Madden
Attendance:
49,200

Match Stats

Home TeamRangersAway TeamMotherwell
Possession
Home49%
Away51%
Shots
Home10
Away7
Shots on Target
Home4
Away4
Corners
Home14
Away6
Fouls
Home2
Away4

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Rangers 1, Motherwell 3.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Rangers 1, Motherwell 3.

  3. Post update

    Richard Foster (Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Anthony Straker (Motherwell).

  5. Post update

    Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Lee Wallace.

  6. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Louis Laing.

  7. Post update

    Attempt missed. Haris Vuckic (Rangers) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right.

  8. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Anthony Straker.

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Motherwell. Craig Moore replaces Lee Erwin.

  10. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Darren McGregor (Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  11. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Josh Law.

  12. Goal!

    Goal! Rangers 1, Motherwell 3. Darren McGregor (Rangers) header from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Nicky Law with a cross following a corner.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Motherwell. Simon Ramsden replaces Stephen Pearson.

  14. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  15. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Josh Law.

  16. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Anthony Straker.

  17. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by Josh Law.

  18. Post update

    Attempt missed. Darren McGregor (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

  19. Post update

    Corner, Rangers. Conceded by George Long.

  20. Post update

    Attempt saved. Kris Boyd (Rangers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.