Rangers move 16 points clear at top of Premiership as Kemar Roofe scores twice in comeback win over Motherwell
If persistence and resilience are qualities integral to a title-winning side, Rangers displayed them in spades as they came from behind to beat Motherwell 3-1 at Ibrox and open up a 16-point lead at the top of the Premiership.
Steven Gerrard’s team looked to be on course for another dispiriting setback after their midweek Betfred Cup loss at St Mirren as they trailed to Callum Lang’s early strike. They had to wait until the 72nd minute for Kemar Roofe’s equaliser against ultra-defensive opponents before substitute Cedric Itten put them in front. Roofe added a stoppage time flourish to the final scoreline.
For a team seeking to immediately regain confidence and momentum in the aftermath of a painful defeat, it couldn’t have been a worse start to the contest from Rangers’ perspective.
Lang’s sixth minute goal again exposed a defensive vulnerability which, prior to the cup exit in Paisley on Wednesday, had rarely been evident in Gerrard’s team this season.
They failed to properly clear a long throw-in from Stephen O’Donnell and when the Scotland right-back retrieved the ball, he whipped it back in low across the face of the six yard box. Lang was quickest to react at the far post, stealing in ahead of James Tavernier for a simple close range finish.
The goal played perfectly into Motherwell’s game plan. While they were notionally set up in a 5-3-2 formation whenever they had the ball, it was effectively a 5-5-0 designed to suffocate Rangers’ efforts to make their customary dominance of possession count.
It might have been different had Jermain Defoe, making only his third Premiership start of the season as Alfredo Morelos completed his two-match suspension, not been denied by Motherwell ‘keeper Jordan Archer in the second minute.
Rangers struggled to find any penetration in the final third and Archer was rarely troubled for the rest of the first half which saw Rangers camped inside the Motherwell half.
The pattern remained the same after the break, although the introduction of Joe Aribo for Kamara did inject some greater variety into Rangers’ search for an equaliser.
Declan Gallagher was a colossus at the heart of the Motherwell defence and made superb blocks to deny Roofe and Defoe as the pressure intensified.
The dam finally burst in the 73rd minute. Bevis Mugabi was unable to deal with a Tavernier cross and Kent was able to shuttle the ball into the path of Roofe who slammed it high into the net.
Roofe should have scored again two minutes later when he headed wide from close range but Rangers did turn it around in the 82nd minute as Itten grabbed the winner.
Tavenier’s corner from the right was flicked on by Ianis Hagi for the Swiss striker to head home from a couple of yards out. Roofe struck again four minutes into stoppage time to provide a fairer reflection of Rangers’ dominance.
Rangers (4-3-3): McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic; Arfield (Hagi 62), Davis, Kamara (Aribo 46); Roofe, Defoe (Itten 70), Kent (Zungu 83). Subs not used: McLaughlin, Bassey, Patterson, Barker, Stewart.
Motherwell (5-3-2): Archer, O’Donnell, Mugabi, Gallagher, Lamie (Seedorf 85), Grimshaw (Polworth 85); Campbell, Crawford (Cole 85), O’Hara; Watt (McGinley 65), Lang (White 76). Subs not used: Chapman, Cornelius, Johnston, Maguire.
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