Early goals from Todd Cantwell and Kieran Dowell saw Rangers to a 2-0 win at Motherwell, extending the Gers’ unbeaten run under Philippe Clement to 16 games.
Dowell set the visitors in their way in the fourth minute, firing home a wonderful effort. A neat link-up between Brighton loanee Abdallah Sima and Cantwell saw the latter double Rangers’ lead 12 minutes later.
Liam Kelly made sure the first-half lead was not extended and Motherwell did improve after the break, but did not register a shot on target. They extend their own winless run to 15 games.
The performance frustrated Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell, who tol : “We’re far better in the second half and we have much better moments but again I’m a broken record: there’s always a reaction from us but when you’ve got a soft underbelly you’re going to find yourself in a difficult position.
“People have to put their hands up – as always those individuals have done that but that’s no consolation for anyone who has come here on Christmas Eve and found us with a mountain to climb after 17 minutes.”
Rangers once again go two points behind Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic – the two meet in the Old Firm on December 30, live on Sky Sports – and are now 57 league matches unbeaten against Motherwell.
How Rangers saw off Motherwell
With barely a quarter of an hour on the clock, Rangers had stormed into a 2-0 lead at Fir Park. It was a fine finish from Dowell for the first, slamming home into the roof of the net via his team-mate Cyriel Dessers with less than four minutes on the clock.
It was then a great connection between Sima and Cantwell for the second. The former cushioned the ball into the midfielder’s path, as Cantwell swept home into the bottom corner.
Although holding a commanding lead, Motherwell had Kelly to thank for only being 2-0 down at half-time. The goalkeeper made a string of sensational saves to keep out Dessers, Ross McCausland and Cantwell with fine strikes from all three.
At the other end, Motherwell only had half chances in the first half, but began well after the break. Arsenal loanee Mika Biereth sent a fine cross towards the back post, where Brodie Spencer was waiting. However, his downward header could only be sent wide.
Rangers soon regained control of the possession, but did very little in terms of chance, with Kelly hardly worked in the second half.
Motherwell had a penalty appeal in the 73rd minute as Spencer went sprawling in the area with Ridvan Yilmaz for company, but the referee and VAR denied the claims. There was a scramble in the box soon after too, but Rangers managed to hack the ball away.
However, Dessers did have two late goals ruled out for offside. The first – coming after a lovely through ball from Yilmaz – saw him move just a beat too early. The second was a harder call as Dessers rounded Kelly to slot home, but VAR ultimately denied him again.
Player of the Match: Todd Cantwell
Fifty touches. Five of those inside the opposition box. He created a further three Rangers chances as well as scoring the second goal. This was vintage Todd Cantwell.
Sometimes the 25-year-old is guilty of playing on the periphery, but not on Christmas Eve. Cantwell’s sweeping strike shows you what he can do when he’s afforded a bit more licence to roam and freedom to be progressive in possession.
He’s had a few ‘nearly moments’ during his short Gers career, but seems to be clicking into higher gear now. Goals from midfield are precious for any side – if Cantwell can add that to his game on a consistent basis he really will start to be viewed as the complete midfield package.
Cantwell told Sky Sports after the game: “It’s not about numbers for me, it’s about the team. It’s about coming here in tough conditions and getting three points.
“The wind was awful but we played the game and managed to get the win. It was crazy conditions, I don’t think I’ve played in anything quite like it since school.
“We’re not moaning. We’ve got the win and three points. We were looking for a quick start and we got that. We’ve had a lot of games close together so it’s a case of ticking this one off and looking forward to the next one.”