Rangers blow chance to close gap on Celtic as Motherwell stun Ibrox

After the fevered high of Thursday night under the lights at Ibrox, Rangers and their supporters slipped despondently back to earth as they allowed a glorious opportunity to close within a point of Celtic at the top of the Premiership to pass them by.

Kaiyne Woolery scores Motherwell's second goal in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox despite the efforts of Rangers captain James Tavernier. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Kaiyne Woolery scores Motherwell's second goal in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox despite the efforts of Rangers captain James Tavernier. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Leading 2-0 at the break and utterly dominant, they were pegged back in the second half by a dogged Motherwell side who then defended for their lives to claim a precious point.

It leaves the reigning champions still three points behind their Old Firm rivals in a title race which now has 10 rounds of fixtures remaining.

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Rangers have now dropped 11 points in their eight league games since the winter break, the kind of damaging form manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst will need to address smartly.

Rangers defender Connor Goldson appeals in vain for a penalty in the closing minutes of the 2-2 draw against Motherwell at Ibrox. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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The hum of electricity in the air at Ibrox on this Sunday afternoon was never going to match the atmosphere engendered when Borussia Dortmund were memorably dispatched from the Europa League.

But the news of Celtic’s dropped points at Easter Road ensured the Rangers fans were suitably re-energised as they made their way into the stadium. They left the ground with shoulders slumped, stunned by their team’s failure to see out a victory.

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Van Bronckhorst’s players had tapped into that early mood as they set about trying to take full advantage of their rivals’ own mis-step against Hibs. It was generally one-way traffic from the off as Motherwell struggled to cope with the pace and movement of their hosts.

Alfredo Morelos was unfortunate not to grab the opener with just over 60 seconds on the clock, his effort hitting the crossbar as Rangers dissected the Motherwell defence.

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Liam Kelly’s goal was under siege and the Motherwell ‘keeper heroically kept Rangers at bay with a couple of outstanding one-handed saves to keep out sweetly struck shots from James Tavernier and John Lundstram.

But Kelly was left flat-footed when Rangers made their 22nd minute breakthrough. Ryan Kent, who started on the left but regularly switched flanks throughout to often dizzying effect for the Motherwell defenders, cut in from the right and saw his cross flick off the shoulder of Bevis Mugabi as he challenged for the ball with Morelos.

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Just two minutes later, Rangers doubled their lead after more sharp work from Kent, this time on the left, as his low cross found its way to Fashion Sakala who buried a low finish beyond Kelly.

Even the most optimistic Motherwell fan could not have foreseen their team’s recovery after the break.

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They pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute when Kaiyne Woolery outpaced Lundstram down the right and delivered a low cross for the unmarked Jordan Roberts to tap in.

As Rangers looked to restore a degree of comfort to the scoreline, they were twice frustrated by tight offside calls against Morelos as he headed home.

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Motherwell were waiting for one more sight of Allan McGregor’s goal and it came in the 76th minute when neither Tavernier or Connor Goldson could halt Woolery as he surged into the penalty area before squeezing a shot beyond the ‘keeper at his near post.

Rangers were camped around the Motherwell penalty in the closing stages but could not forage a winning goal, sub Kemar Roofe coming closest when he was denied by Kelly.

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