Motherwell vs Rangers. Scottish Premiership.
Match report as Rangers beat Motherwell 4-2 at Fir Park; Kevin van Veen and Bevis Mugabi scored for the hosts but James Tavernier, Fashion Sakala, Todd Cantwell and Malik Tillman goals ensure away win
Saturday 18 March 2023 22:32, UK
Rangers remain unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership under Michael Beale following an entertaining 4-2 victory over 10-man Motherwell at Fir Park.
Michael Beale's side had to overcome an early setback after Kevin van Veen's third-minute opener but the hosts were eventually brushed aside as Rangers made it 28 league visits without suffering defeat to Motherwell.
James Tavernier levelled before the break with a sublime free-kick (23) before Fashion Sakala's header in the first minute of the second half completed the turnaround.
Motherwell substitute Bevis Mugabi flicked home a scrappy equaliser (59) in this topsy-turvy affair but Rangers' superiority eventually told.
Todd Cantwell's finish on the rebound - his first goal for the club - just four minutes later restored the visitors' lead before Malik Tillman's fierce drive sealed the victory (69).
Callum Slattery was sent off for a second bookable offence for Motherwell, who stay in ninth place in the league. Rangers remain nine points behind leaders Celtic.
Motherwell: Kelly (6), McGinn (6), Butcher (6), Casey (6), Johnston (6), Goss (5), Cornelius (6), Slattery (5), Furlong (8), Spittal (6), van Veen (7).
Subs: Mugabi (7), Mandron (6).
Rangers: McGregor (7), Tavernier (7), Goldson (7), Davies (6), Yilmaz (6), Lundstram (6), Jack (7), Sakala (7), Cantwell (8), Kent (6), Colak (6).
Subs: Kamara (6), Morelos (7), Arfield (6), Tillman (7).
Man of the match: Todd Cantwell.
Beale wanted to see a more ruthless Rangers on Saturday lunchtime - and, after a frustrating opening half, his side belatedly took on board his instructions to make it a remarkable 55 league games without defeat to Motherwell.
The Light Blues booked a Scottish Cup semi-final place against Celtic with a 3-0 victory over Raith Rovers at Ibrox last weekend but Rangers' better performances under Beale have come away from home - particularly the impressive wins at Hibs and Hearts.
The away fans held up banners with the faces of Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson and managing director Stewart Robertson on them, crossed out with a red stripe, saying 'Time for Change', a continuation of a theme among a section of the Gers support.
A section of the Well fans were late in taking to their seats - although it appeared they were watching the game from the back of the John Hunter stand - as a protest, claiming they had faced "concerning decisions" which "impacted on our ability to give the team the backing they deserve", and their banners read: 'Heavy Hands- Empty Stands'.
Rangers fans had more to complain about when Motherwell stormed into the lead through their in-form Dutch striker.
Midfielder Sean Goss sent Max Johnston scarpering down the right in acres of space and his delivery across the box was converted by Van Veen, with a VAR check confirming the home side's lead.
Ally McCoist told Sky Sports on co-commentary duty: "It was a marvellous touch from Max Johnston and watch the movement from the centre-forward Kevin van Veen at the far post. It is exceptional as he gets the right side of Goldson. I thought it was a left-foot finish but he tucks it in with his right and it's a great start for Motherwell."
It was a far from storming response from Rangers but, after Slattery was booked by referee Nick Walsh for hauling down Rangers midfielder John Lundstram just outside the box, their resistance was broken.
Tavernier opted to curl the ball into the near post and Well 'keeper and captain Liam Kelly got across his goal too late to stop the ball beating him.
Rangers still did not hit their heights.
In the 34th minute, Lundstram's half-volley from outside the box rebounded off Kelly's chest and Sakala turned the rebound past the post.
However, the Zambian made no mistake just after the restart when Tavernier planted a cross from the right on to his head as he rose above Motherwell defender Paul McGinn at the back post to nod in.
Antonio Colak fired wide moments later after he was left with only Kelly to beat but still there was no sense that the visitors had complete control and, after making a mess of trying to clear a James Furlong corner, Mugabi, on for McGinn, poked the ball into the net from three yards.
More drama soon followed as Van Veen missed the target after going round Gers 'keeper Allan McGregor before the visitors raced up the pitch.
After efforts by Ryan Kent, Colak and Tavernier in quick succession were all blocked, Cantwell fired high into the net - with VAR ruling out the suggestion of a possible offside.
Alfredo Morelos and Tillman replaced Colak and Sakala and they both combined before the Bayern Munich loanee thumped a shot high past Kelly from 14 yards before taking the acclaim of the travelling support behind the goal.
Slattery was sent packing after fending off Cantwell with a forearm which saw the Rangers midfielder go to ground and, in the end, the visitors finished in control.
Kris Boyd analyses Kevin van Veen's opening goal, which was given after a VAR check for offside.
"I think Rangers probably would've won the game today anyway. I know that's easy to say in retrospect, but they probably would've. But there will be games where teams may get relegated or may be in the play-offs. People could lose their jobs if their team gets relegated so we need to make sure the VAR is done to the best of its ability.
"We still have teething problems. Was it done on the cheap? Maybe. There aren't enough cameras in the stadiums to make it as conclusive as we would like but I just hope it doesn't cost a team their place in the top flight."
Rangers manager Michael Beale on Sky Sports:
"Overall I was really pleased, we were in control for the whole game.
"Just at half-time we spoke about speeding up and our quality in the final third.
"The two goals we let in we need to get better at, but we did score four as the away team again.
"We've won again away from home, we've been really strong since the World Cup break.
"We could have scored three or four more in the last 10 minutes and that's an area we just spoke about in terms of improving.
"I want to cut the group some slack, our league form's been really good. That was comfortable today."
Stuart Kettlewell, after suffering his first defeat as Motherwell boss, told Sky Sports:
"It looks tough at the end when we're down to ten men and Rangers create a number of chances, but I think until that point we were more than competitive.
"I don't think there was too much in the game that really surprised us, we felt we could create some decent chances when we got on the ball.
"We don't want to be glorious losers and say we were well in the game. I thought we were for large spells and the final chunk of the game becomes a little bit false just because you're playing against such good players and you're down to ten men which, for me, is incredibly harsh.
"I'll look for a bit of clarity on the third goal, which is a big moment in the game. I think there is a bit of confusion around the building as to how that has come about."
Cantwell told Sky Sports: "We've put a run together now and we want to carry that on when we get back from the internationals. I think it's good for the boys who arrived in January that we now have a break before we get back to it."
Tavernier on Cantwell: "He's been a credit to himself since he came through the door. He works really hard, got his head down and is a match-winner for us.
"We've just got to keep giving him the ball and I'm happy he got on the scoresheet today."
Rangers return to Scottish Premiership action after the international break at home to Dundee United on April 1.
Motherwell are away to Hibernian on the same day. Both matches kick-off at 3pm.