Rangers extended their lead in the SPL to 16 points at Ibrox today, answering questions about their mentality in a hard fought but deserved win against Motherwell.
If any game should have deemed a formality this weekend, it would be the meeting at Ibrox today.
Going into the game Rangers had only lost one game in all competitions, had a achieved a 27 game unbeaten run and were looking for a tenth successive league win.
But an unexpected bump in the road, thanks to a defeat in the BetFred Cup to St Mirren on Wednesday, had raised the age old questions about the mentality of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers and winning when it mattered.
Approaching January, the month where things have traditionally gone wrong for the former Liverpool legend, the timing of the defeat on Wednesday could not have been worse.
Add to the equation that Celtic appeared to have turned a corner of late, then you can understand why there was a greater sense of anxiety around those with blue tinted noses going into the game.
But Rangers answered those questions emphatically with a vital win.
Gerrard made five changes to his side, bringing in Filip Helander, Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara, Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe to replace Leon Balogun, Calvin Bassey, Bongani Zungu, Joe Aribo and Cedric Itten.
Rangers started brightly, with Jermaine Defoe forcing a save from Jordan Archer and then hitting a shot just wide of the post in the first couple of minutes.
But Rangers found themselves one down after some more slack defending in the sixth minute. Borna Barisic failed to stop Stephen O'Donnell firing a low cross across the face of the goal, and Callum Lang scored at the back post to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Rangers had an opportunity to get a quick equaliser with a free kick just outside the box, but James Tavernier couldn’t repeat his heroics of last week fired it just over the bar.
Ryan Kent then had a great chance to equalise on 25 minutes after some good work from Tavernier allowed Steve Davis to send in a great cross, which Kent headed just wide of the post. Then Roofe turned nicely in the box but fired his shot straight at Archer.
Rangers were turning up the heat by this point and Tavernier had a great chance at the back post after Barisic sent in a great cross, but the Englishman, looking for his 18th goal of the season, failed to connect with it properly.
Steven Gerrard introduced Joe Aribo at half-time in place of Glen Kamara in attempt to get Rangers back in the game.
But for long periods Rangers looked devoid of any invention or creation, despite having the lion share of possession. In an attempt to inspire some sort of reaction Gerrard introduced Hagi for Arfield and Itten for Defoe.
Rangers continued to dominate possession, but there was a strong feeling of déjà vu about proceedings until the 72nd minute when Kemar Roofe equalised when he turned inside the box and hammered home after Motherwell failed to clear their lines. Roofe then came close to giving Rangers the lead minutes later when his header went inches past the post.
Rangers still needed a winner, however, and it arrived with eight minutes to go thanks to substitute Cedric Itten after James Tavernier’s corner evaded everyone in a crowded six yard box and he headed in at the back post.
It was a huge moment for Rangers and they secured the win in the 94th minute when Joe Aribo stabbed the ball to Roofe in the box who turned and finished from close range in a similar fashion to his first.
Steven Gerrard was delighted with the win afterwards stating: “I’m really proud and pleased with how we reacted to going a goal down. We kept asking questions all afternoon. We were relentless at finding a way back into the game. It was important that players stuck to their roles.
“Eventually our success came. It was about staying calm at the half-time and making the subs at the right time. I thought the subs were really, really big for us today”.
RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Arfield, Davis, Kamara, Roofe, Kent, Defoe.
SUBS: McLaughlin, Bassey, Hagi, Itten, Zungu, Patterson, Aribo, Barker, Stewart.
MOTHERWELL: Archer, O'Donnell, Gallagher, Mugabi, Lamie, Grimshaw, O'Hara, Crawford, Campbell, Lang, Watt.
SUBS: Chapman, McGinley, White, Maguire, Seedorf, Polworth, Cornelius, Johnston, Cole.
REFEREE: Don Robertson
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