Motherwell 1-5 Rangers: Steven Gerrard's men move 4 points clear

Motherwell 1-5 Rangers: Steven Gerrard’s men move four points clear of Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership with Cedric Itten finding the net twice

  • Captain James Tavernier converted two penalties for Steven Gerrard’s Rangers
  • Jordan Jones slotted home his first goal since arriving from Kilmarnock in 2019
  • Cedric Itten scored his first goal for the club before finding the net for again later
  • George Edmundson scored an own goal in the 87th min of the game to finish 5-1

Given the impressive quality on show, Rangers didn’t really require a helping hand to complete their biggest away win in the Premiership thus far. Motherwell offered one regardless.

After exactly 11 months without a league penalty, Steven Gerrard’s side capitalised fully on two awarded in the opening 37 minutes of this confident Fir Park success.

Both were conceded for handball offences – first by Bevis Mugabi, then Liam Grimshaw. Each was ruthlessly punished by Ibrox captain James Tavernier to strengthen his team’s position at the top of the table.

Rangers’ captain, James Tavernier, converted two penalties for Steven Gerrard’s side

Incredibly, Motherwell have now conceded eight penalties this season – half of all the goals they have lost. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Stephen Robinson’s side were also the opponents when Rangers last received a league spot-kick, on October 27, 2019.

Tavernier missed that day. Having also netted against Willem II last Thursday night, the right-back has clearly discovered his mojo from 12 yards.

While that is an obvious positive, it wasn’t the most significant lift Gerrard will take from a cold, sunny afternoon in Lanarkshire. He might have departed feeling a little better about the depth of his squad given the identity of the other two scorers.

Jordan Jones hadn’t started a game for Rangers since January. Indeed, many expected him to have already departed for an English Championship admirer in this transfer window.

Instead, the frost was brushed off the Northern Ireland winger as he emerged from cold storage to make his first start since January. It was crowned by his first goal for the Ibrox club – a glorious, curling finish to make it 2-0 – that suggests he might have a future in Gerrard’s plans after all.

Stephen Robinson’s side have now conceded eight penalties this term – half of all their goals

Jordan Jones hadn’t started a game for Rangers since January but scored for the club’s second

A substantial layer of icing was then added to the cake by Cedric Itten. Replacing Ryan Kent for the final 21 minutes, the £2.5 million Swiss striker opened his Rangers account with two goals.

The first was a long-distance peach. The second showed the scrambling instincts of a poacher. Both will unquestionably boost his confidence as he seeks to settle into Scottish football.

Motherwell claimed a late consolation via a George Edmundson own goal, but their top-flight form revival was ended in the most abrupt of fashions.

Gerrard made two changes to his line-up from Thursday night’s resounding Europa League win in Holland, but stressed it was not a matter of resting players for the sake of it.

A tight groin saw Borna Barisic replaced by Calvin Bassey at left-back – a first start for the ex-Leicester youngster – while a promising substitute cameo against Willem II earned Jones a place ahead of Ianis Hagi. Midweek heroics were enough to ensure Allan McGregor retained the goalkeeper’s jersey.

Cedric Itten opened his Rangers account with two goals after joining for £2.5 million

It was his opposite number who was given far more work here. A mere 45 seconds were on the clock when Trevor Carson came to Motherwell’s rescue. A foul on Scott Arfield gave Tavernier a free-kick delivery from the right that was clipped onto the head of Alfredo Morelos.

The marking from the home defence was woeful. Carson, though, bailed out his centre-backs by stretching low and stopping the ball with a firm right hand before Declan Gallagher scrambled it clear.

That early alarm wasn’t quite enough to wake up Motherwell. The Ibrox side managed to build a dominance of territory before claiming to a 12th minute lead.

Bassey came forward on the left to aim a cross towards Arfield. He moved to try and help it on, but the ball struck the left arm of marker Mugabi. There were few complaints from those in claret and amber when referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot.

Tavenier picked a different direction from Thursday night in Tilburg but the outcome was the same.

A short run-up was followed by a perfect connection that found the net via Carson’s right-hand post. For Gerrard, it provided the perfect platform for a strong first period.

Motherwell, in contrast, looked a pretty weary outfit – in mind as much as body. They had endured a six-hour flight to return from Europa League defeat against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel. Robinson made two changes – Mugabi and Callum Lang replacing Nathan McGinley and Chris Long – yet they toiled to find any incision and fell two behind to a lovely bit of work from Jones after 28 minutes.

Arfield’s measured pass put the Northern Ireland winger in a footrace with Ricki Lamie that he won comfortably. Shifting onto his left-foot in the inside-right channel, Jones curled a sublime shot into the net via the inside of the far post. It was an excellent – and very long-awaited – reminder of what he can offer.

Rangers were motoring now. Lovely interplay involving Jones, Steven Davis, Bassey and Ryan Kent led to an Arfield drive being deflected over.

Liam Polworth sought to give the hosts some hope but failed to find the net for Motherwell

Then, on 37 minutes, came the second penalty. Bassey tried to reach Kent’s corner but again it was a Motherwell arm – this time Grimshaw’s – that made contact.

Tavernier again shifted his aim, beating Carson was a precise placement inside the goalkeeper’s left-hand post. Complacency was now the only danger to Rangers.

Liam Polworth sought to give the hosts some hope just before the break by showing quick feet inside the area. His eventual strike, however, was deflected over the top by a fine defensive slide from Filip Helander.

With victory all but secure, Rangers began firing again when Gerrard made his changes just beyond the mid-point of the second period.

Itten made his mark with 15 minutes remaining. A scuffed cross from Arfield found its ways to the ex-St Gallen man just outside the area. A touch and swivel was followed by a rocketed finish that left Carson without hope.

McGregor had to expertly tip over a Mark O’Hara free-kick before Itten struck again in the 80th minute, poking home from close range.

The sole negative for Gerrard arrived with the loss of a clean sheet with three minutes to play, when substitute Edmundson inadvertently diverted a Motherwell corner beyond McGregor. 

More to follow… 

The result will see Steven Gerrard’s men move four points clear of Celtic at the top of the table

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