SCOTT ARFIELD’S first professional hat-trick was the difference as Rangers turned in another professional and comfortable performance to defeat Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership this afternoon.
Controlling the game throughout, Arfield struck twice in the first-half and once in the second half to ensure Gers made it back-to-back wins following Wednesday’s win over Hearts.
From the side which so impressively cruised by the Jambos on Wednesday, out went the suspended Ryan Kent while Joe Worrall dropped to the bench, with their places in the XI taken by Daniel Candeias and Nikola Katic.
The opening stages for both sides were rather tepid, and while Gers had the bulk of possession, it was Well who had the first two-half chances with Jake Hastie shooting over on the end of a free-kick while Charles Dunne headed wide from a corner.
But on 22 minutes, the opening goal went the way of the visitors.
All of a sudden, the tightly packed game opened up, with Daniel Candeias able to play a ball through midfield to Jermain Defoe around 25-yards from goal.
Scott Arfield had gone just beyond him, and in attempting to cut out Defoe’s pass to his teammate, he ended up helping it on to the Canada captain, and he retained his composure to finish well beyond ‘keeper Mark Gillespie.
Defoe made a chance all for himself soon after, taking a Connor Goldson knock-down beautifully out in the wide area of the box before spinning his marker and hitting a shot on the half-volley which Gillespie did well to get down to.
Defoe then fired over a bouncing ball after Arfield tried to return the earlier favour before the second goal arrived on 39 minutes – and again, it was Arfield putting the ball in the back of the net.
Pressing the ball high up the pitch through Candeias and Ryan Jack, Candeias won it back off the boot of David Turnbull out on the right, and with Well at sixes and sevens, he played it in for Arfield for another lovely finish away from Gillespie.
The second half began with Gers happy to invite Well onto them and look to hit them on the break, and it was a successful ploy, with the third goal arriving right on the hour mark.
Again, Gers pressed high with Jack winning the ball from Turnbull, and he released Defoe to go one-on-one with Gillespie.
He looked destined to score, but so unselfishly, he spotted the run to his left of Arfield, and in he came to round off a sensational hat-trick – the first of his career.
Defoe should have made it 4-0 on 70 minutes, again as Candeias pressed to win the ball, this time from Dunne, but with only Gillespie to beat he hit it straight at the goalkeeper.
Arfield was withdrawn to a standing ovation on 71 minutes to be replaced by Ross McCrorie as Gers saw out the game comfortably.
RANGERS: McGregor; Tavernier, Katic, Goldson, Flanagan; Kamara (Halliday, 84), Jack, Davis (Grezda, 79); Candeias, Arfield (McCrorie, 71), Defoe.
SUBS NOT USED: Foderingham, Worrall, Lafferty, Middleton.
MOTHERWELL: Gillespie, Tait, Aldred, Campbell, Main (Cadden, 65), Ariyibi (Frear, 65), Grimshaw, Dunne, Rodriguez-Gorrin, Turnbull, Hastie (Scott, 77).
SUBS NOT USED: Ferguson, McHugh, Hartley, Semple.
REFEREE: Nick Walsh