Rangers 7-1 Motherwell: Gers crush 10-man '˜Well as Stephen Robinson sent to stand
Rangers may have been buffeted by various setbacks in recent weeks. In blowing away Motherwell on Sunday, Steven Gerrard's men suggested they possess the inner reserves to tack back on course.
The path they plotted to an annihilation of the Fir Park side was unquestionably assisted by a penalty earned with the scores tied at 1-1 just after the half hour that also resulted in their visitors losing captain Carl McHugh to second yellow.
It appeared a pivotal moment, and one which precipitated Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson being banished to the stand following a touchline altercation with Rangers’ coach Tom Culshaw.
However, it should not take away from frenetic scoring burst that made for a first seven-goal haul in a league game since Rangers defeated Stenhousemuir 8-0 in a League One encounter five years ago.
Only the second win in their past six games for Gerrard’s men, as a response to the desperate defending that condemned them to a 4-3 defeat in their Europa League visit to Spartak Moscow on Thursday it was utterly emphatic.
Doubles from Eros Grezda - the Albanian netting his first goals for the club - and Scott Arfield underpinned a thumping earned courtesy of a 20-minute, four-goal salvo during a second half that witnessed what Motherwell defender Richard Tait deemed an “unacceptable” display “where we lay down far too easily”.
That is to do a disservice to Rangers standing up and hunting goals down with a ferocity of intent. Indeed, the home side exhibited a sharpness and sleekness from the off that suggested they were in the mood to make a statement.
Arfield started to make his mark on afternoon only eight minutes in. He did so by controlling a flighted-in ball from James Tavernier using his knees as Peter Hartley slipped in front of him. It presented the opening the midfielder gobbled up by planting a low shot into the far corner of the net.
When Ryan Bowman then rolled Nikola Katic along the byline in the 25th minute and delivered a cross that Curtis Main bundled in practically on the goalline, Motherwell appeared to have an unexpected way back in.
The fate that befell McHugh meant that within 10 minutes they had as good as exited the contest once more.
There didn’t look much in the foul on Alfredo Morelos that brought the Motherwell captain a booking and had the Colombian writhing and squealing.
Robinson was certainly infuriated, venting at Rangers assistant Gary McAllister, who returned his own verbals.
Yet, McHugh should have been smarter than to then seek to dive in front of a shot from Andy Halliday shot with his arms way above his head.
Referee Craig Thomson was justified in pointing to the spot, with Tavernier having to bury the spot-kick twice after the official ordered a retake because he was dealing with banishing Robinson from his technical area following an aggressive confrontation with home coach Culshaw.
The Motherwell manager appeared to have to be restrained from going toe-to-toe with the Rangers backroom staffer after he jumped from the bench to have it out with Robinson.
If all that was messy for the Lanarkshire side, the afternoon then became like a teenager’s bedroom for them.
Morelos made it 3-1 four minutes after the converted penalty when he headed in a Tavernier corner and following the restart, the visitors simply did not.
Gerrard intimated he told his team to “put on a show” in a second period when everything was in their favour.
Grezda donned the top hat and tails in claiming his sides final two goals of the afternoon – the first from a neat finish on 68 minutes, with a header seven minutes later completing the rampage.
Grezda had an assist for the goal that kicked off the second period carnage just before the hour mark.
It was the Albanian’s ball slid across the face of goal that youngster Glenn Middleton met at the left-hand edge of the box and steered in with a first-time effort.
Within two minutes, Arfield added a fifth when he curled the ball past Trevor Carson from a Ryan Jack lay-off.
By the end, Motherwell might have been relieved only to concede seven goals in what was their biggest loss to Rangers in more than a century.
And while Gerrard refused to countenance talk of an Ibrox title challenge in the wake of his biggest win, Arfield wasn’t so reticent afterwards.
“At this football club, we are always thinking about that,” said the midfielder, who now has five goals for the season. “We need to be as close as possible going into the end of December and we will see what happens.
“This football club is built on success and tradition and that is why I signed up for this, why the boys signed up for this, to be successful and bring the glory days back to this club.
“I think there were 15 new faces as well as a new manager and his staff [in the summer] so it has taken a lot of time to keep building.
“But it shows what we have got, not just as players but as human beings, to take this and make this club the best it has been in many years. It was up to us to do that as a team and as men and I think we are very close.”