Match report as a first-half goal from Cyriel Dessers proved enough for Rangers to see off Motherwell; Dessers netted in the 24th minute when diverting Rabbi Matondo's strike past Liam Kelly; there were boos from the Rangers fans as the final whistle sounded
Sunday 24 September 2023 20:18, UK
Rangers were lucky to escape with a 1-0 victory over Motherwell courtesy of a fortuitous deflection off Cyriel Dessers' boot.
Michael Beale's side, who were greeted by a chorus of boos at the final whistle, started the game lethargically but took the lead in fortunate circumstances when Rabbi Matondo's arrowed shot cannoned off Dessers as he attempted to move out of the way in the 24th minute.
The cruel deflection wrong-footed Liam Kelly, for what turned out to be the only goal of an otherwise uninspiring afternoon, where the Gers looked jaded from their midweek European exploits against Real Betis.
Motherwell poured forward in the second period and went close on numerous occasions as Blair Spittal was twice denied by goal-line clearances from James Tavernier and Connor Goldson.
The smattering of boos could be heard above those who chose to applaud the narrow victory inside Ibrox, which sent Rangers above Motherwell into third place, four points behind leaders Celtic.
There were rumbles of discontent throughout the game in Glasgow, with supporters clearly agitated by yet another lacklustre Gers display.
The verdict from midweek, after beating Betis in Europe, was that Rangers had possibly turned a corner. "It felt like the old Rangers were back," said defender Borna Barisic following the hard-fought win.
But on a damp and drab afternoon at Ibrox, the sense of dissatisfaction was an obvious condemnation of the way Beale's team are approaching games during this rocky spell.
Rangers did indeed have chances to extend their lead but there were several anxious moments in the latter stages as Oli Shaw and Spittal went closest to a leveller. And the win also came at a cost for Matondo, who went off injured after twice going down unopposed.
Motherwell made a fast start and had several half-chances to wrestle ascendency when Harry Paton and Callum Slattery both curled just wide, and Brodie Spencer forced Jack Butland into a sprawling save at his near post.
Rangers then looked to have turned the tide, against the run of play, when Dessers diverted the ball over goalkeeper Kelly's dive for his third Rangers goal. But even that failed to inspire Beale's men, who struggled for rhythm and were particularly underwhelming in the final third.
Kelly denied Dessers and then Sam Lammers, who was Rangers' brightest spark, but Motherwell came back into the game after substitute Shaw joined Theo Bair up front. The pair combined for an excellent chance but Butland was on hand to save.
The visitors came even closer when Spittal played a one-two with Slattery and beat Butland only for Tavernier to clear off the line, before Goldson was equally well-placed to thwart the industrious Spittal for a second time late on.
"From the first minute onwards I was unhappy with the team," said Rangers boss Michael Beale after the game.
"The unforced errors with the ball are unacceptable for players playing here. That performance was a really poor one.
"It's a good goal, something we worked on, trying to overload in the middle with the width. But outside of that, some of our play was so poor against a team in a good place, well organised, who executed their plan better than us. We
constantly turned the ball over and left ourselves vulnerable."
Beale added: "Losing Rabbi (Matondo) to injury - and it doesn't look like a good one - didn't help us because we had few players who could dribble with the ball.
"But actually the back three gave us some stability and some possession and some balance behind the ball. I thought those three played well and John Lundstram in front of them and Jack (Butland).
"But in terms of performance that's well below what the players expect, I expect, the fans expect. We got away with one.
"I don't want to take anything away from Motherwell, they played well and I'm sure Stuart (Kettlewell) will take a lot from the game, but that's well below what I am looking for from my team. We had honest words."
A "frustrated" Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell said: "I've been involved in a lot of teams that have played here but I can't remember too many when we've been dominant in stages of games, when you're carving out chances, pinning Rangers in.
"When you look at Rangers towards the end of the game - and this isn't a criticism, I don't want people taking it that way - but when their goalkeeper gets booked for wasting time and they are trying to take the ball into the corner, I've not really seen that much here.
"That speaks volumes for our performance, but I hold my hands up yet again, we have created chances and we've not capitalised on it.
"That's two weeks now where I believe we've not got what we've deserved."
Rangers' attention turns to the Viaplay Cup with a quarter-final at home to Livingston on Wednesday night. Kick-off 8pm.
Their next Scottish Premiership match is at home to Aberdeen on September 30. Kick-off 3pm.
Motherwell host Celtic on the same day. That game kicks off at 12.30pm.