Motherwell’s long wait for a league win over Rangers continued after Steven Gerrard’s men deservedly came out on top of a tough encounter .
Having won five of their previous six home games, the Fir Park men went into the game confident that the timing was perfect to end their 17-year jinx against the Ibrox side.
However, a goal in either half from Nikola Katic and Alfredo Morelos meant that Rangers’ domination of this fixture continues. And despite the Columbian striker being sent off, the Fir Park men failed to make the most of their extra man for the final 20 minutes.
Stephen Robinson made only one change from the side which beat Hearts, Devante Cole swapping places with James Scott.
Indeed, in terms of a consistent starting line-up, there was only one change from the team which was unlucky not to take a point at Ibrox in October, the on-form Jermaine Hylton providing the home side with an additional attacking threat.
In the early stages the game was very open with play flowing from end to end – without either goal being under threat.
The first chance came ‘Well’s way after 10 minutes. Cole nodded Mark Gillespie’s measured ball into the path of Christopher Long.
His speed took him away from Connor Goldson and after carrying the ball beyond Allan McGregor his cut back was perfect for Cole six yards in front of goal. But James Tavernier nudged his foot in front of the striker to clear what might have been the opening goal.
At the opposite end Gillespie wasn’t really tested until the 19th minute when he elected to punch Joe Aribo’s cross straight to Glenn Kamara at the edge of the box. Thankfully for the ‘Well ‘keeper the former Dundee midfielder hoisted his effort high into the Davie Cooper stand.
Motherwell’s defence had given leading scorer Alfredo Morelos a lean time of it until the 25th minute. A quick break from Ryan Kent allowed him to set up the Columbian striker but his high drive was beaten away by Gillespie’s left hand.
A minute later the Rangers’ pair combined again and this time Morelos’ powerful low drive was sneaking in off the post until Gillespie got down to push the ball behind for a corner.
When Borna Barasic whipped the resultant flag kick into a packed box, Nikola Katic held off his marker to stoop and power a header high into the net and give Rangers the lead.
The Ibrox side might have extended their lead before the interval as they maintained the pressure on the home goal. Gillespie was again quick to dive to his right and push another low drive from Morelos round his post.
However, despite conceding a succession of corners, the Steelmen defended them solidly to trail by only one goal at the interval.
With McGregor untested in the first half, though, more was required from the ‘Well attack in the second 45.
It was Rangers who almost doubled their lead four minutes after the break when only another great block from Gillespie denied Morelos as the ‘Well defenders claimed offside.
As the goal threat was still around Gillespie’s goal, ‘Well made the first substitution after 57 minutes Scott replacing Hylton wide on the left.
Another fine save was needed from Gillespie this time to beat away Kent’s fierce drive – as the ‘Well ‘keeper was shaping up as man of the match.
Robinson’s second change came after 63 minutes, Sherwin Seedorf replacing Polworth just in time to see McGregor produce his first save. Jake Carroll’s long throw glanced off Goldson’ head and as the ball bounced two yards from goal Long reacted to nod the ball high towards goal but the Rangers’ ‘keeper reacted superbly to palm the ball away.
That encouraged the home support but their enthusiasm was soon curtailed when the Ibrox side made it 2-0 after 68 minutes.
Aribo’s ball across Gillespie’s box found Morelos’ but his turn and snapshot was blocked by Gallgher. At the second attempt the striker steered the ball inside Gillespie’s right hand post.
That was the last action for Morelos as after going to celebrate his goal in front of the ‘Well fans he was shown a second yellow card, leaving Rangers to defend their lead with 10 men for the last 20 minutes.
With 12 minutes remaining ‘Well looked to utilise the extra man, replacing central defender Bevis Mugabi with midfielder Mark O’Hara.
However, the Steelmen failed to threaten McGregor’s goal. And Rangers might have made it three in injury time when Barasic’s superb curling free kick rebounded off Gillespie’s left hand post.