Motherwell hosted Rangers in the first competitive game of the new season and were unlucky to lose by two goals to nil.
The Steelmen were without captain Keith Lasley, who was serving a suspension from last season, and last seasons top-scorer Louis Moult started on the bench after struggling through the week with injury.
But it didn’t look like the Steelmen would struggle with these absences when they got off to a high-flying start.
An incredible opening few minutes saw Johnson beat the offside trap and race down the line, his squared pass fell to Ainsworth at a tight angle and it was cleared off the line; agonisingly close for the ‘Well.
And the home side went close again just a minute later as McDonald picked up a short back pass in the box, but his effort was turned behind for a corner.
The resulting set-piece was well cleared by the visitors, who were on the back foot early after some exciting play from Mark McGhee’s men.
Rangers skipper Lee Wallace fired one over the bar from ten yards, but Samson remained untested after the opening ten minutes.
On eleven minutes Motherwell were inches away from the lead yet again. A brilliant run on the break from Ainsworth saw him slip in Cadden, who drew his shot wide of the far post.
Six minutes later, Motherwell went close again. Johnson burst through the middle and his strike was tipped past the woodwork by Foderingham.
Just before the 20th minute, Rangers nearly tested Samson, but Halliday’s ambitious strike from 30 yards dropped over the bar.
And it wasn’t until the 23rd minute that Rangers tested the ‘Well stopper, when Barrie McKay slipped in Waghorn, and last season’s top scorer in the Championship hit a vicious strike on goal that Samson tipped over for a corner.
The resulting corner was worked to Tavernier, who crossed deep for Kenny Miller, but the veteran strikers header flied across goal and out for a goal-kick.
Just before the half-hour mark, Motherwell had a great double chance; Ainsworth was involved yet again as his cross was miss-hit by Cadden, but it dropped to Johnson who fired over.
Some patient build-up play from the Ibrox side couldn’t work its way past a sturdy Motherwell defence, and Wallace overhit his pass which ran out for a Motherwell goal-kick.
McManus showed his experience and composure at the back, when a deflection fell to the feet of Wallace who just had the skipper to beat, but McManus stood strong and stepped in with expert timing to knick the ball away.
On the 34th minute, Miller hit the target with a header from six yards, but it lacked any real pace and was simple for Samson.
Incredibly neat footwork by McHugh on the edge of the Steelmen’s box allowed the midfielder to swivel and play Johnson down the line; Motherwell’s number eleven drove the length of the pitch but his strike rose over Foderingham’s goal.
A late challenge on McDonald from Kiernan forced Steven McLean to blow his whistle for a free-kick just outside the Gers box. That led to an inch-perfect cross from Ainsworth that was nearly put in the back of the Rangers net but McDonald couldn’t quite get enough on it and it remained goalless.
Marvin Johnson brought down Tavernier around 25 yards out, but the full-back pulled himself up to take the set-piece, curling one over the wall and safely into the arms of Samson.
A neat back-heel from Waghorn to play in Miller was one of Rangers best chances of the half, but Miller blazed his shot well wide from ten yards.
On the stroke of half-time, a loose header was hit on the volley by Waghorn, skimming the roof of the net as it went over.
But that was the last bit of action in an even first-half where Motherwell were unlucky not to be in the lead.
And it didn’t take long for Rangers to take the lead. Three minutes in to the half and Tavernier put the visitors ahead.
Some neat play from Motherwell in the midfield led Richard Tait to get in behind down the right had side, but the full backs cross was too close to Foderingham, who gathered it in two hands.
A cynical foul from Harry Forrester halted the Fir Parkers on the break and it resulted in the first booking of the day.
Tavernier was involved again just five minutes later. The full-back cut inside and teed up Forrester whose powerful strike crashed off the bar.
Motherwell broke away superbly yet again, with Richard Tait clipping a ball down the line to McDonald who turned and fed in McHugh who then played in Chalmers who crossed brilliantly in to the area, but McDonald wasn’t expecting the ball to drop to his feet and it skipped out for a goal kick.
Just before the hour mark, Mark McGhee brought off Joe Chalmers in place for last seasons top-scorer Louis Moult.
Two minutes later Harry Forrester and Kenny Miller were both brought off for O’Halloran and new signing Kranjcar.
And the Croatian midfielder was involved straight away, the ball dropped to him 5 yards from goal but he completely mis-kicked it and the danger was thwarted by the ‘Well.
On the 67th minute, Kranjcar had another effort that he yet again screwed wide without threatening Samson.
McGhee then brought off Lionel Ainsworth and replaced him with Dom Thomas.
Johnson cut inside from the right and fired a shot on goal from all of 30-yards, but it was high and wide from the winger from what would’ve been a screamer.
Rangers new signing Josh Windass was introduced to the action in place of Holt and immediately looked lively, skipping past a challenge but being taken off the ball in powerful and fair fashion by McHugh to deny him the dream start. The ball ran into the path of O’Halloran who brought out a great save from Samson and McKay blazed the rebound well over the open goal.
At the opposite end, Motherwell went closer. A brilliant cross was met by the head of Louis Moult but it flashed inches wide of the mark.
Some intricate work by Scott McDonald in the Rangers box worked a yard or two for the Aussie, but his shot just went over and Rangers held their lead.
Windass broke free down the right flank and his low cross looked threatening, but it was well defended by the Steelmen.
Carl McHugh went in to the book with twelve minutes remaining, and at the other end, a cynical foul led to a free kick for the ‘Well.
Before it was taken, McGhee introduced Jacob Blyth and from the resulting set piece the Fir Parkers were close to drawing level, but Rangers survived the attack.
Josh Windass dragged a rampaging Scott McDonald to the floor and was booked by McLean with just under ten minutes left.
‘Well boss McGhee was enraged after Marvin Johnson was tripped and play was waved on, and Rangers were calling for a hand-ball from Samson a minute later, but the play was waved on again.
There were more calls for a handball from the travelling support, but it was clearly waved on by McLean.
As the Rangers fans started cheering their teams every pass, Dom Thomas interrupted their rhythm by picking the ball up in the opposition half and playing in McHugh who swept it wide to Johnson, but his cross was collected by Foderingham.
And in injury time, Martyn Waghorn doubled the visitors lead and silenced the home fans. The Englishman curled a neat finish round Samson to secure all three points for the Ibrox outfit.
It was a frustrating day for the Steelmen, who were denied yet again when Heneghan’s header was heading in but was cleared off the line.
[tab:As it happened]
Lewis Irons at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 0 -2 Rangers
90+3mins: Another two unbelievable chances. Heneghan’s header is cleared off the line again. The rebound is then hooked over. So frustrating
90+2mins: McDonald’s shot is heading at goal, but it’s blocked on route for a corner!
90mins+1: The forward has too much time to line up a shot and curls it past Samson, in off the post.
GOAL Rangers! Martin Waghorn makes it 0-2 to Rangers with a curling effort from the edge of the area…
89mins: Marvin runs at Wallace, goes past him, but his cross is just about plucked out the air by the Rangers keeper.
87mins: Another handball shout as the ball hits Heneghan on route. It definitely hit his hand, but did he mean it. No penalty anyway.
85mins: Just before that, ‘Well lucky to get away with a call as the ball struck Samson’s elbow outside the box. Nothing doing from the ref.
85mins: Johnson cuts in from the left hand side and drills a shot high over the bar into the Cooper Stand.
83mins: Mark McGhee being spoken too – he’s enraged after Johnson appeared to have been tripped…
82mins: McDonald tries a neat little clip towards Blyth in the box, but it clears everyone and runs out for a goal kick.
81mins: Windass picks up a yellow card for a little shirt pull on Scott McDonald…
79mins: ‘Well going for it, but leaving space at the back as Rangers look to hit on the counter. Can the Steelmen get level… #COYW
79mins: Another ‘Well chance – Heneghan gets on the end of a Johnson free-kick, but his header drops inches wide of target. Aggggghhhhhhhh!!
78mins: Final sub – another attacker on – Blyth comes on for Cadden.
76mins: McHugh is booked for a swiping challenge on O’Halloran who hits the deck.
75mins: Windass bursts clear down the right, his cross causes problems but the Steelmen scramble it clear. Corner.
73mins: Good play between Moult & McDonald in the final third. The Aussie eventually takes on the shot, but pulls it wide.
71mins: Awww, Moult’s got to score. Sublime cross from Tait, picks out the sub, but from six yards out he heads wide of target. Frustrating!
69mins: Rangers should score! O’Halloran brings out a terrific save from Samson. McKay, with goal at his mercy, blazes the rebound over.
68mins: Rangers make their final sub – Windass comes on to replace Holt.
67mins: Rangers subs causing problems. O’Halloran gets one on one with Hammell, but his shot is deflected over for a corner.
66mins: Marvin Johnson takes on a shot from about 35 yards, but it’s very high and wide… Ambitious from the winger.
66mins: Second Steelmen sub – Dom Thomas is on for Lionel Ainsworth.
65mins: Kranjčar almost in again, drifting towards the back post, but his shot is off target.
64mins: Moult gets involved again, picking up on the right, cutting in but his shot is off target.
62mins: Chances at both ends – Niko Kranjčar almost scores with his first touch but its saved. Down other end, Moult’s lob is saved.
61mins: Rangers subs… Niko Kranjčar and Michael O’Halloran are on for Miller and Forrerster.
60mins: McDonald booked for a challenge on Halliday.
59mins: ‘Well sub – Joe Chalmers comes off and is replaced by Louis Moult, who is struggling with a knock. #COYW
56mins: Wee half chance there, Chalmers clips up a ball towards McDoanld, but he can’t control it and the chance is gone.
53mins: Rangers go close to doubling their lead, Tavernier again causing problems, cutting it back for Forrerster who hits the bar.
51mins: Harry Forrester booked for ‘taking one for the team’ style foul on Johnson as the ‘Well man burst clear on the counter.
47mins: Rangers get the ball in advanced postion, he cuts it back for the full back and he curls a shot high past Samson into the top corner
GOAL Rangers. James Tavernier puts Rangers 0-1 up.
45mins: Motherwell get the second half going… #COYW
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Rangers. Fairly even stuff so far, Rangers having more of the ball, but ‘Well maybe shading the chances.
43mins: Rangers go close, Waghorn gets on the end of McManus’ header, but his can only control a volley narrowly over the crossbar.
42mins: Neat Rangers move on the edge of the ‘Well area, Waghorn flicks it into the path of Miller, but he screws a shot wide of target.
41mins: James Tavernier takes it himself, but it’s good hands from Samson, who holds on despite the bounce right in front of him…
40mins: Chalmers pulled up for a trip on Tavernier. Rangers free-kick 30 yards out, right of centre…
37mins: Awww, McDonald’s got to score. Ainsworth’s near post ball falls for the Aussie striker, but he can’t get enough on it and its saved.
36mins: McDonald wins a free-kick from Kiernen – it’ll allow Ainsworth to swing one into the box…
35mins: Johnson shows Halliday a clean pair of heels, but with McDonald in the middle, he takes on a shot, but it sails high into the stand,
33mins: Miller sends in a deep, searching cross from the right, but Waghorn’s header bounces into the ground and held by Samson.
29mins: Full back Tavernier wins a corner for his side, his shot from distance deflected around the post on route.
27mins: ‘Well record another double chance. Ainsworth’s cross is miss-hit by Cadden. It lands at Johnson, but he blazes it over the bar.
24mins: From the resulting corner, Rangers work it to Tavernier who throws over a back post cross to Miller, but he heads it wide of target.
23mins: Rangers register their first shot on target, McKay plays in Waghorn. who hits a strike from the edge that Samson tips over. Corner.
21mins: Rangers have a free-kick in a good position after Ainsworth’s hand ball.
19mins: Rangers reply via midfielder Andy Halliday, but his touch and hit from 30 yards drops a foot or so over the bar.
17mins: Yet another chance for ‘Well – Johnson bursts through the middle, but his low shot is tipped around the post by Foderingham!
10mins: Yet another good chance for the Fir Parkers, Ainsworth teeing up Cadden but he sclaffed a low shot inches wide of target.
6mins: Rangers’ captain Lee Wallace has the visitor’s first shot at goal, but is drills high over Samson’s bar from about 10 yards or so.
4mins: Johnson goes down under pressure from James Tavernier… ‘Well fans screaming for a foul, but right call from ref Steven McLean.
3mins: Awww, so close again. McDonald picks up on a short back pass, but his shot is well saved by Rangers’ keeper Wes Foderingham. Corner!
1min: Great play from Johnson down the left, his cross found his fellow winger at the far side, but his low shot is somehow hoofed clear.
1min: So close, Lionel Ainsworth almost puts the Steelmen ahead, but Halliday somehow kicks the ball off the line.
0mins: Rangers get the game going here at Fir Park…
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
“As far as we are concerned we made enough chances to at least get to penalty-kicks.
“Rangers play different to us, they have a lot more possession, but we know that and we were comfortable with that. In between them having possession, we made the best chances but didn’t take them.
“And I think that reflects the fact that it’s only two weeks into pre-season training and people like Marvin and Scott McDonald will get sharper.”
Rangers Manager Mark Warburton:
“Considering it was our first competitive game, we lost out on a few one v ones and gave the ball away cheaply early on but after that it was a very pleasing afternoon’s work.
“I’ll look at the game again because we could have been one or two down at the start and we should have stopped their chances.
“But then we took care of the football and won the one v ones, got tighter in key areas and, from the 15th to the 90th minute, there was only one team in it.”