IT wasn’t perhaps achieved in the manner fitting of the great man but Rangers emerged victorious in the Davie Cooper CIS Cup Final to land their first trophy in almost two years.
Aside from a period during the first half in which Motherwell scored and proved to be a match for their more illustrious opponents, Alex McLeish’s men looked entirely comfortable throughout and were buoyed by two early goals from Mo Ross and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
A goal from David Partridge briefly threatened to bring Terry Butcher’s side back into the contest before further strikes from Fernando Ricksen, Nacho Novo and Kyrgiakos again sealed the victory.
As a result, nine players – including unused substitute Zurab Khizanishvili – earned their first medals as Rangers players and McLeish must now hope this triumph can act as a springboard as the league race hurtles into the final straits.
The Ibrox manager had been dealt a pre-match blow when Marvin Andrews’ knee injury prevented him from playing in successive CIS Cup finals – Bob Malcolm filled in at the back – but any disappointment over the Trinidadian’s absence soon evaporated as Rangers raced into a two-goal lead.
Both strikes came from unlikely sources as Ross netted for the first time this season and then Kyrgiakos doubled the advantage with his first ever Rangers goal.
Ross was the creator as well as the executioner for the opener after just five minutes. The young defender shovelled a pass wide to Thomas Buffel before galloping into the penalty box to collect the return and then arcing a sweet lob over the advancing Gordon Marshall.
Goals from Ross are as rare as sightings of Halley’s Comet in these parts – this was only his third in senior football although his last also came against Motherwell – and he celebrated accordingly with unbridled glee.
The bookies’ decision to install Rangers as odds-on favourites seemed to be vindicated when they doubled their lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
Ross was at the heart of it again, winning a corner that Gregory Vignal played short to the unmarked Barry Ferguson.
His deep cross seemed destined for the waiting arms of Marshall until Phil O’Donnell inexplicably leapt to glance the ball away from his keeper and into the path of Kyrgiakos who nodded into the empty net.
When Dado Prso then stung Marshall’s palms with a fiercely-struck drive – Vignal was incandescent with rage that he had been ignored as he raced forward to support his team-mate – it began to look as if a repeat of Rangers’ 7-1 crushing of Dundee United in the semi-final was on the cards.
However, just when it appeared like the Light Blues were in the mood to run up a cricket score, Motherwell had the temerity to score themselves.
From Rangers’ viewpoint it was a poor goal to concede. Krygiakos was adjuged to have tugged at Scott McDonald’s shirt wide on the flank – it seemed a harsh decision – and when Steven Hammell curled in the resultant free kick, David Partridge was able to squeeze between the Greek and Ross to thump a header past Ronald Waterreus.
The goal noticeably breathed fresh life into a Motherwell side that had looked down and deflated and they matched every Rangers’ move for a prolonged spell without ever causing Waterreus any further palpitations.
Instead, it was Marshall who was soon to be picking the ball out of his net once more as Rangers forged their way further in front after 33 minutes.
A clumsy Stephen Craigan foul on Buffel earned Rangers a free kick about 25 yards from goal and Ricksen stepped up to sweep an effort that crept in at Marshall’s near post.
On his return to Ibrox in January, Ferguson had joked that he wouldn’t be allowed to resume his previous role as free kick specialist given the form of Ricksen – and little wonder.
The Dutchman had already sweetly-struck set-pieces in previous rounds of this tournament away to Aberdeen and then again in the last round against United and this was another beauty to add to an already illustrious CV.
As Rangers grew in stature, Novo was just inches away from converting Kygiakos’ headed knockdown but the Spaniard was not to be denied again just three minutes after the re-start.
Prso fed Vignal who in turn clipped a pass through to Novo and as Marshall advanced, more in hope than expectation, the striker chopped a lob over the stranded keeper for Rangers’ fourth goal of an increasingly one-sided game.
With any argument over the destination of the trophy now clearly settled, the game drifted towards its inevitable conclusion with Motherwell now a pale imitation of the side that had battled valiantly in the first half.
Ricksen struck the crossbar from close range and Novo had a goal ruled out for offside before Kyrgiakos sealed an emphatic victory with a thumping header from Ricksen’s corner five minutes from time.
RANGERS (4-4-2): 1 Waterreus; 3 Ross, 12 Malcolm, 4 Kyrgiakos, 8 Ball; 7 Buffel, 2 Ricksen, 6 Ferguson, 11 Vignal (A Rae 79); 9 Prso, 10 Novo (Thompson 84)
Subs not used: G Smith, Lovenkrands, Khizanishvili
Booked: Ferguson (82)
MOTHERWELL (4-4-2): 1 Marshall; 2 Corrigan, 5 Craigan, 6 Partridge, 3 Hammell; 4 McBride (Quinn 84), 8 Leitch, 10 O’Donnell, 11 Paterson (Fitzpatrick 65); 9 Foran (Clarkson 65), 7 McDonald
Subs not used: Corr, Fagan
Booked: Craigan (32), O’Donnell (64), Fitzpatrick (75), Corrigan (82)
Man of the Match: Sotirios Kyrgiakos