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Wednesday, 26 September 2012 21:12

Rangers 2-0 Motherwell

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THIS might not have been an SPL fixture, nor was it a game which determines anything will be won this season, but for Rangers fans it was about just one thing: retribution.

Ibrox has been the stage for many memorable nights over the years as the likes of Juventus, Bayern Munich, Parma, Borussia Dortmund and PSV Eindhoven have come to town and lost.

Beating Motherwell in the third round of the League Cup certainly doesn’t fall into the same bracket by any stretch of the imagination.

But after a summer of pain which saw the Light Blues voted out of the SPL by all member clubs bar one, this victory was one home fans enjoyed every bit as much.

It might have come at a cost, with both Fran Sandaza and Dean Shiels coming off nursing head and groin injuries respectively.

Nevertheless, it was an evening when Ally McCoist’s team truly got its season underway with an enthralling performance that gripped supporters from the first minute to the last.

Seasoned professionals such as Neil Alexander, Lee Wallace and Lee McCulloch revelled against the standard of players they’ll feel they should be coming up against every week.

Emilson Cribari also shone like a beacon in central defence as he finally settles into life in Glasgow at last.

But perhaps most pleasing of all was that the result was achieved with no less than six players who have sampled youth football at Murray Park in the last three years.

Ross Perry was a rock at the back, Kyle Hutton enforced in the engine room and Lewis Macleod showed the maturity of someone 10 years his elder.

Full debutant Fraser Aird also made his mark, while substitutes Robbie Crawford and Barrie McKay each helped see their team over the line.

To a man, Rangers were excellent against a side many fancied to overwhelm them given their position at the head of the top flight standings.

Instead, having arrived in Govan unbeaten domestically and ahead of Celtic in the league, Well left with their tail between their legs after being humbled by the rampant hosts.

Rangers is a club which was on its knees not so long ago – and this 90 minutes proved it is rising to its feet once again with vigour, confidence and even a hint of a swagger.

Hurt by the way others have battered them in the last few months, they took it out on the country’s form team with such a dominant showing.

The Light Blues still might not win this competition but they’ve demonstrated how capable they are as the club’s rebirth in the SFL keeps gathering pace.

Having struggled to start with any sort of purpose in the majority of their league games so far, Gers came flying out of the traps in this fixture.

With Aird deployed on the left, him and Shiels set a great tone in the opening seconds by winning crucial challenges and almost setting up Sandaza.

That positive attitude spurred on a sizable crowd which, it later transpired, was larger than the attendances at all six of yesterday’s last-16 ties combined.

And with most of the 29,413 people present giving very vocal backing to the hosts, there were plenty of motivating factors driving Gers on.

As SPL leaders, it wasn’t a great surprise to see Well come back and Tom Hateley had a go from long range but it was well held by Alexander.

McCoist’s men gave as good as they got in the opening exchanges and while the visitors looked threatening when they came upfield, so too did the Light Blues.

A smart Shiels free kick after he was fouled by the consequently-booked Steven Hammell found McCulloch, who never connected properly and dinked the ball over.

Sandaza also had a header deflected over the bar after a pinpoint first-time cross from Anestis Argyriou on the right.

In clashing heads with defender Shaun Hutchinson in that attack, Sandaza’s night came to a premature end and he was replaced by Hutton.

McCulloch moved up front and the pause in play nipped the momentum Rangers had been building in the bud a little.

But they quickly lifted the tempo again and a fine flowing move involving Aird then Shiels down the left deserved better than the captain’s shot rolling straight to Darren Randolph.

Back came Well again in an entertaining first half, with Nicky Law’s pacy effort ripping just past Alexander’s far post.

It was a really open match and the opener could have gone either way and a quick free kick after a foul by Macleod gave the Steelmen a chance to get it on the break.

With home fans screaming for offside, linesman Graham Chambers allowed play to continue and two attackers were suddenly in on Alexander.

But while Nicky Law got to the ball first, the keeper stuck a leg out and diverted away for a throw when it seemed a goal was on.

It seemed a shame when half-time brought play a close, such was the hunger to succeed shown by both teams.

But just four minutes after the restart, Ibrox erupted into life once again as Rangers took a lead they richly deserved through talisman McCulloch.

Shiels had done ever so well to win a corner in the home team’s first real attack of the second period.

And after Aird took it, the Northern Ireland international picked out the attacker who bulleted his 11th goal of the campaign home with a stunning header.

What was good got even better four minutes later as provider Shiels turned scorer himself and he doubled the advantage.

This time Argyriou was the man who set him up, clipping back for the former Kilmarnock forward to steer home on the turn.

Leading 2-0, Rangers had a lead they richly deserved and it was always expected Motherwell would come back at them.

But while they had chances, they weren’t really clear cut and it was the Third Division team that only looked like adding more goals.

Hutton’s drive screwed just past the post and Aird’s jinking run was eventually ended by a good stop from Randolph.

Substitute McKay also had chances, as did McCulloch, to put more gloss on a fine evening’s work.

The fact they didn’t mattered not. The damage had been done, Rangers had made their point and they charge on into the quarter-finals.

RANGERS: Alexander; Faure, Perry, Cribari, Wallace; Argyriou, McCulloch, Macleod, Aird (McKay 81); Shiels (Crawford 76), Sandaza (Hutton 24).
SUBS: Gallacher, Stella.
GOALS: McCulloch 50, Shiels 54.
BOOKED: McCulloch.

MOTHERWELL: Randolph; Kerr, Cummins, Hutchinson; Hammell (Francis-Angol 66); Humphrey (Daley 72), Hateley (Ramsden 64), Lasley, Law; Ojamaa, Higdon.
SUBS: Hollis, Murphy.
BOOKED: Hammell, Daley.

REFEREE: Calum Murray.

ATTENDANCE: 29,413.

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