Phil McGhee at Ibrox
Motherwell produced their best performance under Ian Baraclough to record their first win at Ibrox since 1997 .
‘Well’s hopes of finding a result which would keep the play-off alive for the second leg at Fir Park on Sunday, were surpassed as first half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen McManus put the Fir Parkers in the driving seat.
When Lionel Ainsworth made it 3-0 at the start of the second half it sent the small band of ‘Well fans into ecstacy and only a late goal from Darren McGregor dampened their spirits and raised Rangers’ hopes that they can stage a dramatic recovery on Sunday and relegate ‘Well.
Ian Baraclough deployed Lionel Ainsworth and Marvin Johnson in wide positions to check the overlapping runs of Rangers’ full backs but also use their pace and hopefully catch the Ibrox side on the break. And with Scott McDonald dropping back to join Keith Lasley and Stephen Pearson in the middle of the park ‘Well’s intentions to stifle ‘Gers early in the gamewere clear
The 950 ‘Well fans in the far corner were relieved to see Kenny Miller break away from Lasley only to curl his shot beyond George Long’s post.
In the 23rd minute Long produced the first save of the game getting down well to block Nicky Law’s drilled shot from 10 yards.
Motherwell’s reply was a cross from his brother Josh which found Lee Erwin but his tame header was comfortably held by Cammy Bell.
The next effort on goal,though, caused Bell a bit more concern as ‘Well took the lead.
Josh Law was again the provider finding Erwin wide on the right and after dragging the ball into the box the striker tried his luck with an angled left foot shot with Darren McGregor’s outstreched leg sending the ball past his ‘keeper and give Well the upper hand.
It could have been 2-0 minutes later when a Louis Laing header from Ainsworth’s corner seemed netbound until it was deflected past the post
However, it took another great save from Long to block Nicky Clark’s snapshot and deny Ranger’s an equaliser.
That would have brought the Ibrox side right back into the game. Instead a stunning second goal five minutes from half time set ‘Well on their road to an historic victory.
Five minutes from the break Wallace pulled back McDonald to concede a free kick on the right touch line. Johnston curled the ball into a packed box where McManus rose unchallenged to power a header past Bell and silence the 42,000 Rangers’ fans.
Having left the field to a barrage of boos the Ibrox crowd loudly welcomed their side back onto the pitch in anticipation of a second half fightback.
However, any hopes of a ‘Gers recovery were killed within 90 seconds when’Well added a terrific third goal.Pearson nicked the ball in the centre circle before racing upfield. He fed the ball to Erwin who played in Ainsworth who rounded off the move in style smashing the ball past the helpless Bell.
Rangers’ reply was a thumping drive from Haris Vuckic which was turned round the post by Long with another impressive save.
In Final attempt to grab a goal and life-line Stuart McCall then sent on Kris Boyd to partner Miller up front.
Motherwell, though, were confident and calm in possession and looked the Premier side. As Rangers chased the game ‘Well carved through the home defence a had a few more chances which should have produced another goal. McDonald and Johnston curled efforts over the bar before Johnston’s run and cut back set up Ainsworth but from 10 yards only he hammered his shot over the bar when he should have really made it 4-0.
That miss almost proved costly when at the other end when Long had to produce a wonderful relflex save to prevent Boyd snatching a goal with a trademark back post header.
With eight minutes remaining Simon Ramsden replaced the limping Pearson and just before Rangers pulled back a goal that gave them some hope. A floated corner into the six yard area was met by McGregor who headed the ball past Long to raise the decibel levels from the Ibrox stands and set up furious finish.
But as Rangers continued to hoist the ball into the penalty box Laing and McManus in particular stood tall and strong to preserve Motherwell’s two goal lead and hoist them halfway to Premiership safety as the teams prepare for the second leg on Sunday.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Ibrox
FT | #RFCvMFC
Rangers 1 – 3 Motherwell.
The Steelmen go back to Fir Park with a 2 goal advantage over their Glasgow rivals
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30 seconds left….
4 minutes added on.
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Vuckic advances forward and gets a shot away from the edge of the box. Narrowly pas the post.
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A let-off there as Boyd has the ball in the back of the net but the flag is up and he is correctly ruled offside
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Motherwell sub, Moore comes on for Erwin.
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Goal, McGregor pulls one back for Gers, heading home from a corner.
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Pearson limps off for Ramsden.
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Rangers corner….ah, ‘Well almost break away but Murdoch tracks back and intercepts Ainsworth’s ball to Erwin.
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What a save! Boyd powers a header from 8 yards and Long somehow manages to get it over the bar!!
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Motherwell sub, Straker on for Hammell.
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Rangers sub, Zaliukas off for Ferguson
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What a chance for Ainsworth to make it 4 but he blazes it well over from 12 yards!
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Laing booked for a tackle on Miller as he broke away.
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Ref misses two clear fouls on Erwin then Johnson…..
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Erwin does well to win a corner…falls to Erwin but he can’t get it out his feet and Rangers clear.
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And another Rangers sub, Boyd on for Clark.
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Rangers sub, Walsh on for Shiels.
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Quick throw-in by Miller allows Vuckic in behind the defence but Long makes himself big and makes the stop.
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Ainsworth makes it 3, after Pearson and Erwin combine on the breakaway!!!
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Lasley and Johnson get the second 45 underway…
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Big 45 minutes ahead as The Steelmen come out the tunnel at Ibrox with a 2 goal lead….
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Rangers 0 – 2 Motherwell
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Miller goes in late on Long and the Rangers man is down receiving treatment.
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McManus flick in a header from Johnson’s free-kick!!!! 2-0!!!
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McDonald’s free-kick lack the power required to test Bell. Routine stop for the ‘keeper.
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McGregor booked for a challenge on Erwin. Free-kick in a good position….
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Erwin cuts in off the right and his shot is deflected past bell by McGregor! 1-0 to the Steelmen!
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Half-chance for Erwin as he gets on the end of Law’s cross but the ball comes off the back of his head and Bell gathers
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Ainsworth wins a corner off Wallace…..decent delivery but McGregor heads clear.
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Good save by Long, denying Law from 12 yards after a bit of a defensive mix-up!
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Miller gets away from Pearson and Lasley and gets a shot away. Curls it about a yard away from the post.
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McDonald has to concede a corner as Foster looked to go past him. Lasley nods the delivery away at the front post.
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Johnson swings it in…but it’s a routine stop for Bell who gathers at his back post.
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Erwin wins a corner…
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‘Well counter and Johnson bends in a cross past Foster towards Erwin but Bell gets out and gathers.
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Wallace gets down the left wing and gets a ball across goal. Thankfully the ball ricochets off Mcmanus to safety.
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Good recovery by Law as he gets back to cover Laing who has lost out to Clark inside the box. Wins a goal kick..
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Clark and Miller get the game underway. COYW!!!!!!!
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Here we go then, both teams just coming out the tunnel….
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
Rangers manager Stuart McCall: