Punch sparks shameful scenes at play-off final
Motherwell maintained their place in the Scottish Premiership with a 3-0 victory in the second leg of the play-off final to complete a comprehensive 6-1 aggregate success. But their triumph was overshadowed by the disgraceful conduct of Rangers defender Bilel Mohsni after the final whistle.
Motherwell striker Lee Erwin shoved Mohsni in the back when the Tunisian international refused to shake his hand. Retaliating wildly, Mohsni turned around to kick Erwin and then punch him on the jaw.
A melee followed, with Motherwell’s unused substitute Fraser Kerr grappling with Mohsni. Players and staff from both clubs got involved before Mohsni was dragged away down the tunnel.
It later emerged that Mohsni attempted to confront Erwin again outside the stadium before being persuaded to board the Rangers team bus.
Referee Craig Thomson issued red cards to Mohsni, Erwin and Kerr for their involvement.
Motherwell could also face disciplinary action for a pitch invasion by some of their supporters at the final whistle, prompting mounted police to enter the stadium to restore order.
There were also two incidents of crowd disorder during the match. Rangers captain Lee McCulloch was struck in the face by a rolled up flag being wielded by a Motherwell fan as he went to retrieve the ball for a throw-in, while a firework was thrown on to the pitch after Marvin Johnson scored the home side’s first goal of the afternoon.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan and his SPFL counterpart Neil Doncaster were both in attendance at Fir Park and the SFA’s compliance officer Tony McGlennan will lead any action taken by the football authorities.
It was Mohnsi’s third act of violent conduct this season, having earned a two-match ban for a head-butt on Derby County striker Chris Martin in August and then receiving a three-match suspension for striking Hibs defender Liam Fontaine in September. He has made his last appearance for Rangers, as the 27-year-old is among those out of contract at the Ibrox club.
Mohsni was roundly condemned after the match yesterday, with Rangers interim manager Stuart McCall confirming he will not be retained.
“I know you’re not going to believe me but, hand on heart, I’ve not seen the incident yet,” said McCall. “I was down the tunnel and then heard the roar so came running back.
“I spoke to Craig Thomson and I believe there were three red cards given after the game – one to ourselves and two to Motherwell.
“If what you are telling me about the incident is true, then it’s obviously unacceptable and totally disgraceful. No-one can condone that sort of behaviour. Bilel’s contract is up but that’s totally unacceptable. I don’t know if the club can take any action against him but I don’t think there is any doubt he won’t be at the football club next season.
“You don’t want to see any trouble on the pitch. I wasn’t aware of any until I heard the roar. Emotions were running high. It has been a disappointing day but that obviously adds even more disappointment to it.”
Motherwell striker Erwin branded Mohsni an “embarrassment” and insisted Rangers received their just desserts with the margin of the final scoreline.
“I tried to shake Mohsni’s hand and wish him all the best and he told me to ‘Eff off’,” said Erwin. “I pushed him and he reacted badly. A player at a club like that, at that level, should not be acting like that. It’s embarrassing for him and the club. I wish him all the best.
“I grew up supporting Rangers as a young boy but Rangers can wait their turn. We battered them, battered them. We were a class above them.”
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough was left frustrated at the manner in which the post-match incident detracted from his team’s achievement in beating Rangers so convincingly.
“I didn’t see what happened. I was shaking hands with the Rangers staff and people started running over,” said Baraclough.
“I understand there have been a few red cards. The game doesn’t need that, Scottish football doesn’t need that. The games were played in a decent spirit regarding what was at stake and to have that at the end has no place in this game.
“I’m not going to comment on whether we will appeal our red cards. We’ve just beaten Rangers to make sure we are in the top division. I think we were driven on by the fact a lot of people had written us off, that the Hibs-Rangers game was the final itself and that we were a formality.
“There is no better way to silence people than that and we deserved it over the two legs. I’m going to concentrate on that rather than the melee at the end.
“Everyone connected with us made sure these two games where the biggest of our lives. We executed our plan perfectly, took our chances and made sure we are in the top division.
“Hopefully the stuff at the end won’t overshadow the win, because it was ten seconds of madness that has no place in this sport whatsoever.
“The two teams went at it hammer and tongs, there were chances at both ends in both games. It was a pulsating game to watch for any neutral but if the back pages are full of two or three people brawling, then that’s the wrong message to send out for Scottish football.”