Motherwell 1-6 Rangers match story: Fashion Sakala runs riot for Steven Gerrard's turnaround specialists
As they opened up a four point gap between themselves and Celtic at the top of the table, Steven Gerrard’s men had to recover from the cheap early concession of a goal scored by Motherwell defender Bevis Mugabi.
They did so in an ultimately comprehensive manner at Fir Park, racking up their biggest win of the campaign so far.
Fashion Sakala, making just his fourth starting appearance since his summer move from Oostende, bagged a hat-trick with James Tavernier, Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe also finding the net against a beleaguered Motherwell outfit reduced to 10 men midway through the second half with the dismissal of captain Stephen O’Donnell.
This is a Rangers team who appear hell bent on making life hard for themselves - this was the ninth time this season they had conceded the first goal in all matches, the sixth such occasion in what was their 12th league fixture.
It’s a predicament they are generally proving adept at getting themselves out of - they have now won 13 points from losing positions - but it’s a trend Gerrard will hope to reverse if this title defence isn’t to become far more complicated than necessary from his perspective.
His side should have opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Joe Aribo headed wide from close range, although he looked to be in an offside position which wasn’t spotted by the linesman.
The hosts’ breakthrough arrived seven minutes later and it was a defensive horror show from Rangers. Hesitancy between Tavernier and Connor Goldson in dealing with a harmless through ball led to the latter heading it wide of his own goal as he tried to steer it back to Allan McGregor.
Motherwell took the corner short from the left with Sean Goss whipping over a fine delivery which Sondre Johansen, breaking free of Leon Balogun, met with a header which McGregor got down to his left to parry.
The veteran ‘keeper couldn’t react quickly enough as Mugabi pounced on the loose ball and fired it home smartly from a tight angle.
With Rangers finding themselves in what has become familiar territory, they produced some slick football in pursuit of the leveller and Liam Kelly had to make a fine save to deny Aribo after the Nigerian had shredded the home defence with a superb exchange of passes with Steven Davis.
But while Rangers were dominating territory and possession, they continued to look vulnerable whenever Motherwell mustered a counter-attack. It should have been 2-0 in the 31st minute but the in-form Tony Watt fluffed his line from close range as he fired wide from a Jordan Roberts cutback.
Alfredo Morelos saw a stinging 25 yard shot touched over by Kelly, then headed over from a Tavernier corner as Rangers cranked up the pressure.
Just as it did seven days earlier at St Mirren, it paid off in the closing stages of the first half as they wiped out their deficit.
The 43rd minute equaliser from Tavernier marked his 30th birthday in some style. It was another magnificent strike from the Rangers captain to add to his not inconsiderable showreel of spectacular goals. He strode onto a Bassey cross from the left and met the ball on the drop with the sweetest of first time shots which flew low into Kelly’s right hand corner.
In first half stoppage time, the Motherwell ‘keeper was beaten again with Tavernier the provider this time. His cross from the right saw Sakala leap between O’Donnell and Mugabi to power home a header from around eight yards.
Rangers were utterly dominant in the second half and made it count. Sakala put them 3-1 up in the 63rd minute, the Zambian international striker cutting in from the left and drilling in a shot which took a deflection off Goss on its way to beating Kelly.
Any hope Motherwell might have retained of mounting a salvage operation disappeared along with their skipper when he was sent off four minutes later. Booked in the first half for a cynical pull on Sakala, O’Donnell picked up his second yellow card for a late challenge on Bassey.
There was the rarity of a Kamara goal in the 75th minute, the Finnish midfielder scoring just his fifth in 122 appearances for the Ibrox club with a 25 yard shot following a short corner routine. Sakala, in an offside position, may have been obscuring Kelly’s view of the ball but the goal stood.
Likewise, Sakala was fortunate to get the benefit of the doubt when he completed his hat-trick in the 85th minute from a marginal offside position as he forced home a Davis cross from close range.
But the degree of superiority enjoyed by Rangers was beyond any dispute and they added a flourish in stoppage time when substitute Kemar Roofe poached his ninth goal of the season from a yard out, although his fellow replacement Jack Simpson may have felt a little aggrieved as his header from a Tavernier corner was on target in any case.
Motherwell (4-3-3): Kelly, O’Donnell, Mugabi, Johansen, McGinley; Goss, O’Hara, Slattery (Maguire 82), Roberts (Lamie 72), Shields (Van Veen 66), Watt. Subs not used: Fox, Carroll, Woolery, Grimshaw.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun (Simpson 76), Bassey; Arfield, Davis, Kamara; Aribo (Wright 82), Morelos (Roofe 72), Sakala. Subs not used: McLaughlin, Patterson, Lundstram, Hagi.
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